Every 98 seconds, a person in the United States is sexually abused. Every 16 hours, a woman in the United States is murdered by her romantic partner or ex-partner. Sexual abuse, assault, and harassment are regarded as some of the most common human rights violations in the world by the United Nations. MIT's Media Lab's Project Intrepid examines methods to prevent sexual assault, from pre-historic times to latest technologies, to inform contemporary designs. Intrepid investigates multiple methods to detect initial signs of assault and develop methods for communication and prevention of assault. They also explore olfactory stimuli as a potential means to prevent sexual assault in real-time.
The team present three technological interventions which can seamlessly integrate with existing clothing to respond to initial signs of assault like forced disrobing. The proposed solutions aim to combat Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), College Campus assault and abuse of elderly and disabled.
The proposed solution operates in two modes, an active mode for instances when the victim is unconscious or cannot fight against the assaulter, for example in the case of infants, bed-ridden patients, elderly, disabled, intoxicated people and the passive mode where the victim can self-actuate the safety mechanism. Both modes release distress signals to prevent an assault in real-time, also alert the victim's friends and family, and call emergency services for help.
The clothing design is based on input from sexual assault survivors, 338 on-line participants, 67 volunteers and 20 users who helped us understand the real world feasibility of the system. Users evaluated the clothing appeal, functionality, cultural sensitivity and provided feedback on their general sense of security wearing the smart clothing. The team demonstrate the practicality of their unobtrusive design with user studies that support the technological development and use of olfactory stimuli by showing the effect of smells on sexual arousal and partner selection. The researchers believe their technosocial approach can help improve user safety and prevent sexual assault.
Source and top image: MIT Media Lab
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