How To Get Home Safely With the ‘Circle of 6′ iPhone App [Interview]

You know where the party is, but do you know how you’re getting home?  The “Circle of 6″ iPhone app, winner of the White House “Apps Against Abuse” challenge, uses GPS technology and pre-programmed texts to quickly connect you to your friends, no matter how late it is or how much you’ve had to drink.  C0-creator Nancy Schwartzman gave us the details.

Much like your cell phone carrier’s “friends and family” plan, “Circle of 6″ asks you to choose the six people to whom you are the closest and plug their numbers into your phone. But instead of unlimited minutes, the app gives you multiple ways to quickly and easily access these people when you need a late-night ride home, an excuse to leave early, or some advice on how to end a bad relationship.

Schwartzman advises users to pick people who live nearby, and to always talk to their friends before adding them to the list. The six-person group is “small enough that you know all of the people really well,” she said, “but big enough that at least one of the people can respond to you quickly.”

It’s not just for women, either. “College culture is about these tight-knit friendships,” said Schwartzman, and most people’s social circles include both women and men.

Once you’ve got your circle of friends programmed into the app, you can reach them with three icons:

  • If you click on the “car” icon, your friends will get the message, “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely.” It also automatically pulls up your location on the map and populates the address into the text so that you don’t have to try and describe where you are if you’re not sure.
  • The “phone” icon brings up the message, “Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption.” This is good for fending off an aggressive admirer or leaving a party early without feeling guilty.
  • Finally, there’s the “chat” icon. You can tell your friends, “I’m looking up information about healthy relationships and respect. Just letting you know.” Your friends will know they don’t have to act right away, and they can take a look at the links provided: loveisrespect.org and whereisyourline.org to get ideas on how to handle the situation when you’ve got time to talk.

If you clicked on something by mistake, just hit the “cancel button” in the middle.

There are also some pre-programmed national hotlines and a local number that you can customize yourself. “This is not an emergency, ‘connect me to the police’ app –that’s what 911 is for,” Schwartzman clarifies. “We want people to hopefully not get into those situations.”

But it’s not a bad idea to plug in the number for your campus or local police department for easy access. If you see a suspicious person or feel threatened in any way, the campus cops will be the ones to check it out for you– the 911 operator will just tell you to call the campus cops.

Right now one in five college-age women have have been sexually assaulted – and those are just the cases that were reported. Schwartzman, a filmmaker and social media strategist, had detailed her own experiences with sexual assault in her 30-minute documentary The Line, a revealing look at sexual boundaries and consent.

Since then, she has spoken with young adults around the country about personal safety and mutual respect through her non-profit organization, The Line Campaign, Inc. “There are places where people don’t even talk about sex,” Schwartzman said, “let alone respect and consent.”

Schwartzman created the app in partnership with mobile and women’s health expert Deb Levine (isis-inc.org), award-winning designer Thomas Cabus (thomascabus.com), and MIT-trained app developer Christine Corbett Moran (kliq.in). The app “dovetailed so nicely with the work that I do with anti-violence and young adults to empower them to use tools to create better relationships and healthier communities,” she said.

On its first day in the App Store, “Circle of Six” got 8,000 d0wnloads. See a demo here:

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