In 2019, a YouGov survey revealed that one in three women go out of their way to avoid being assaulted by taking daily safety measures.
That statistic won't come as a surprise to a lot of us – it'll be second nature. I've picked up rituals from the women in my family and friend circle over the years, and I'm seeing the younger generation adopt them too. We teach one another to stick to well-lit areas alongside major roads, give ETAs to one another, walk with our keys between our fingers (though this isn't the most effective method), and initiate phone calls when we're out walking. The list goes on and on.
32% of UK women confirmed that they feel unsafe outside at night, even if they're in their local area, and tellingly only 13% of men agreed.
And it's ultimately not down to women to "avoid" being assaulted. We should be able to leave our homes without being afraid, regardless of the hour – but it's just not the case. One of the more effective security measures a woman can look into are apps. After all, our phones can make all the difference in a dicey situation.
Phones are now, more than ever, lifelines – keeping us connected to loved ones as well as in reach of emergency services, and they're a subtle, quick way of checking in when out and about. Whether you're on your way home from work or heading out to meet a friend, the apps in this post are well worth considering.
The best safety apps for women
Just like any other list of apps, this is only a tiny selection of what's actually out there! I've picked these safety apps because they've been tested, they're easy to use, and they offer a variety of features. Take a look and head over to their landing pages for more information.
bSafe is incredibly popular, and the chances are that if a woman has a security app, it'll be this one. I like it because you can activate the SOS button by touch, like usual, or by voice. This is handy if your phone happens to be out of reach in your pocket or at the bottom of your bag.
When activated, bSafe will reach out to your nominated contacts with an alarm and inform them of your location. These contacts will see and hear everything in real-time, in addition to receiving video and audio files. It's important to note that bSafe won't call the emergency services for you, though.
bSafe can also trigger a fake phone call, which is perfect for those situations where you need a quick excuse to leave a scenario. I can't tell you how many creepy conversations on public transport or train stations I'd have been able to avoid if I'd known about this feature.
For women walking home, bSafe's GPS lets your contacts follow along with you on their device. It's comforting to know you're being watched by a trusted party, and it gives them peace of mind that you're on your way back, too.
bSafe is free to use, though you have the option to upgrade to a 24h premium subscription for $0.25. For more permanent access, the subscription will cost you a modest $2 per month.
- ☎️Can trigger a fake phone call
- 🌎GPS tracking for your contacts
- 👐Hands-free SOS activation
Life360 is a well-rounded app that everyone can enjoy, seeing as it's marketed as a family safety app. I really like how customizable it is, and that you can add friends and family to invite-only Circles where your locations are synced in real-time. That way, you only need to check the map to see where you all are!
And you can add places of importance to your map, too – work, school, shops, bars. You'll notify your Circle when you come and go from these places, and they can tap on your icon to generate a route there, too. You'll also be able to check out a timeline and determine where you and your Circle have been in the last few days as well as any stops you've made.
In terms of safety, Life360 has a check-in option that allows you to reassure loved ones with a tap. If you're near home, or if you've arrived to work or the gym safely, just touch the screen to let them know. In emergency situations, Life360 issues a silent alert to your Circle with your location attached – and it'll also inform your emergency contacts.
It won't cost a penny to download Life360, though if you fancy upgrading it'll cost you $4.17 per month.
- 👭Customizable Circles
- ✅Easy check-ins
- 💤Silent alerts to Circle members and emergency contacts
Okay, so Kitestring isn't technically an app, but that's what makes it so useful. There's nothing to download and you don't necessarily even need a smartphone to use the service – it's all SMS-based. Basically, you can use Kitestring as long as you can send a text message.
If you're heading home from work or out for your exercise, all you do is let Kitestring know and it'll check in with you via text. Then, you reply to the texts as they come in (or visit the website). It's when you don't reply that the app really kicks in.
If you miss a check-in, Kitestring will alert your emergency contacts with a personalized message, and I like that it's the user's inactivity that triggers the app.
Kitestring is completely free to use, though it's a bit limited if you're not paying the extra $3 per month to upgrade. If you do, you'll have unlimited trips rather than just 3… which is a little stingy. So, if you like the sound of Kitestring, you'll need to plan which trips you'll use the app with in advance.
- 📱No smartphone necessary
- 😴Responds to your inactivity
- ✖️Can be used offline
One Scream, like the name suggests, responds to a woman's panic scream – and that's entirely different to how you'd scream if you were messing around with friends. A panic scream is a primal sound, and the app cites that it's incredibly difficult for the sound to be replicated.
Fortunately, you won't need to scream at your phone to calibrate it.
The app has its problems, seeing as it's trained to listen out for cis-female screams, but it does a good job of pinpointing your location and sending for help if triggered. You'll have 20 seconds to dismiss the alarm if it's unnecessary, and if you don't, your nominated contacts will receive an automated message informing them of your whereabouts and situation. Android users also benefit from an open line feature, that works like a phone call to let the user's chosen contact(s) hear your voice – so you can give them more information even if you can't get to your phone.
It is handy that One Scream keeps the phone line open, so that your nominated contacts can hear what's happening in real-time and, of course, if your phone is buried at the bottom of your backpack, your scream will still activate the app.
You will need to activate One Scream and leave it running, however, for the app to work – it uses your microphone, after all. This is a bit battery intensive, but the app is free to use whilst it's currently in beta.
- ⚙️No calibration needed
- 👀Nominated contacts get a live feed
- 👍Hands free activation
Red Panic Button
The simplicity of Red Panic Button is a large part of its appeal, and it is marketed as a tool that both adults and children can use reliably. It literally is a big red button that you press when you're in danger – simple, effective. It means that no time is wasted in situations where every second counts.
If you push the button, the app sends both an SMS and an email to your emergency contacts that contain your GPS location in a Google Maps link. You'll also be able to record a 10 second distress message that'll get attached as a file in the email.
Red Panic Button is free to use, but it's another service that is rather limited unless you shell out for a subscription. The premium subscription is a one-time payment of $4.99 and you get access to all sorts of new panic message options, and the ability to integrate audio and video via your phone's camera.
I like that Red Panic Button uses SMS, because you never know when you'll run out of data or be unable to connect to the Wi-Fi. If Red Panic Button can't determine your location for whatever reason, it'll let you send a customizable SMS to your contacts.
- 👩💻Easy to use
- 🎨Lots of customizability
- ✉️SMS backup
Other handy options
Like I said earlier, there's a ton of these safety apps out there, and they all have distinct features. The ones listed above are your more typical, well-rounded SOS and GPS apps, and they'll serve most of us pretty well. But more specific tools exist too! I've found some of them during my research, so take a look!
Hollaback is a movement as well as an app, and it takes a brave stand against endless street harassment by raising awareness. It does it cleverly, though, by allowing individuals to report and share instances of harassment themselves. The app is a repository of events, and it essentially humanizes the statistics that we're so used to seeing plastered on the news. Hollaback hopes this tactic will motivate, as well as inform, by making harassment less of a personal problem and more of a societal one.
Noonlight has joined up with Tinder, and I think it's a neat idea! It's always nerve-wracking to meet up with the people you find online, after all. Noonlight gives your Tinder profile a badge that shows you're protected, and you'll be able to share the details of your meetup on the app if you do decide to go ahead with your data. You'll also be able to discreetly reach out to the emergency services if you feel as though you're in danger. Check my Noonlight review for more details.
Flare walks the line between form and function, and lets you take your security with you wherever you go. You simply pair the bracelet with your iPhone to get started, and if you're in danger, press the button on the accessory. There's no need to fumble with an app – just one discreet push will do, and by pressing and holding you'll also be able to send a text to your nominated contacts.
This message will include your GPS location, and you even have the option to open a line to 911 dispatch if necessary. I like that the bracelets can also trigger a fake incoming call to help you skirt dicey situations, too!
The bracelets don't come cheap, though. They're $129 apiece, but the battery will at least last you a year or two.
InvisaWear is another accessory designed to keep you safe without needing to use a phone. These bracelets are incredibly pretty, and have their own button that you can double-click if you feel at risk. Then, up to five of your contacts will receive your GPS location in an alert that lets them know you need help. Folks in the US will be able to reach out to 911 dispatch, too.
The bracelet does come with a free app, and there's a premium subscription (with timed GPS tracking, a chat feature, and access to virtual self-defense classes) available for $19.99 per month – though the accessory itself will set you back at least $126.
To round things off, I should remind you not to overlook the safety measures that come preloaded with your iPhone or Android!
iPhone users can trigger a 911 call by squeezing both sides of the phone and pressing the volume and power buttons together. Alternatively, you can enter emergency mode to call 911 with a swipe.
It's a good idea to add your medical information and emergency contacts to your iPhone, too, so that they're visible without needing to unlock it. If you do create emergency contacts, you can arrange for them to receive a text alert with your locations (and subsequent updates) in the event that you make an emergency call.
To add emergency contacts, head to the Health app and select "Medical ID". Then click "Emergency contacts" and copy them from your contact list. It's possible to add your health information via the same app. Click "Medical ID" again, and you'll be able to list any allergies or existing medical conditions.
Android phones work a little differently depending on the manufacturer and model of your device, but it is possible to schedule check-ins with a Google Pixel phone. If you don't respond to these check-ins, your phone will reach out to your emergency contacts to let them know that you're in danger.
Adding emergency contacts will again vary depending on the phone you're using. Generally, you should be able to add them by heading into your contacts menu and selecting your own entry. From here, there should be an option to add or update your emergency contacts, as well as provide some important medical information.
Safety apps for women conclusion
Honestly, this is yet another post I'd rather not have to make. Women shouldn't have to download these apps or be hypervigilant about every move we make. It might be 2021, but the world outside our doorsteps is still a dangerous place. Sarah Everard's story was a tragic reminder that women can do everything right, just as we were taught, and still be killed.
However, being told to simply avoid going outside at night is victim-shaming at its worst, and also completely fails to target the actual issue involved in these cases – namely the perpetrators. It's disappointing to hear the police force spread this message, but it does make it clear that big change is needed.
And it's just as important to take care of your own safety on a personal level – and that's where these apps could make a difference. By downloading one, you'll be in reach of the emergency services as well as friends and family, and have a bit more support for when you leave the house.