Meet The 21-Year-Old Survivor Who Created An App to Help Protect People
Meet The 21-Year-Old Survivor Who Created An App to Help Protect People in a live interview!
When Mercedes Molloy was 13 years old, she was rapped by an older classmate. It took many years for Molloy to cope with being sexually assaulted but one thing remained consistent. She believes that safety is a fundamental right.
Molloy began her entrepreneurial journey by searching for an app that would share her location with her family members and friends. During her research, she began to realize that a lot of these apps cost money or require subscription plans. Due to her strong desire to protect others, Molloy founded and launched the app, Safe Squad back in July of 2019.
About Safe Squad
Available on both IOS & Android, Molloy founded Safe Squad App to ensure the safety of each community. It was designed to provide security and safety to those who have been placed in vulnerable situations. Safe squad believes, “safety is a fundamental right and there should not be a cost associated with it.”
Safe Squad is user-friendly, visually appealing, and discrete. The app uses a color-safe code to validate one’s identity. This helps protect someone’s identity since a color safe code cannot be easily guessed.
Safe Squad provides family and friends peace of mind when their loved one isn’t home. If a situation should occur, the app automatically sends a text message directly to the individual’s chosen emergency contacts.
As a gender-neutral mobile application, Safe Squad’s goal is to protect everyone to make the world a safer place.
“After years of going through this [trauma], I realized I had a choice: I could either let what happened define me and my self-worth, or I could help others who were unable to speak by telling my story, unashamed and encouraging others to remain persistent by recognizing that there should be no time frame or stipulations upon one’s healing journey.”
From victim to survivor, to creator, can you please share a little about the background and what led you to create the app, Safe Squad?
For a long time, I struggled with the fact that I was raped. I was angry and frankly did understand how people get away with such terrible things, But then I realized that I could not change what happened to me in the past but I had the power to change my narrative and be empowered by helping others who were unable to speak out. For me, that was the best part of healing. I became the role model that I always hoped to see. And I am proud to be a part of survivor-based advocacy and be contributing to a solution for a better and safer world. By creating a mobile application that provides ultimate safety for users and peace of mind for their loved ones. Via an automatic SOS messaging system that will alert the user’s chosen emergency contacts with their location. So the next girl out there does not have to say me too. Because frankly, it’s a club that no one should be part of.
How common is it for women and men to be sexually assaulted?
Every 92 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted with an average of 321,500 (age 12 or older) victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.
For how common sexual assault occurs, why do you think the problem is still inadequately discussed in our world today?
The problem is it isn't necessarily a comfortable topic. All the more reason why we must hold such conversations in the first place. To dismantle this oppressive culture which only perpetuates the reasons behind women not reporting.
Why do you think so many women and men don't report their sexual harassment or assault experiences?
Sexual assault is an incredible physical and psychological harm to a survivor, Every survivor’s stories are both valid and different, being shaped by their personal history, identity, context, culture, and community. Just because a survivor does not report their assault does not mean an assault never happened. Individuals may be unable to process all that is occurring, feeling overwhelmed and distressed, and/or not ready to re-tell their story. a wide variety of reasons why people don’t come forward where all are legitimate and what they think is best for them in their healing process.
Many survivors reported feeling too ashamed to come forward or afraid of being blamed. There is a victim-blaming and rape culture where when a tragic event occurs, there is a presumption that it is somehow your fault for the incident, like “ she/he/they were asking for it.”
"Attached to that shame is a lot of self-blame. Victims of sexual assault almost always blame themselves, and we can understand why because in our culture, we tend to blame victims in general. We say things like, 'She shouldn't have been wearing that kind of outfit, she shouldn't have drunk so much, why did she go to that party?
And also the sad reality is that justice is not always served. According to a report by Rainn that cited 2010-2014 Bureau of Justice Statistics, out of every 1,000 reports, 994 perpetrators will walk away free. This can derive serious doubts from survivors about reporting and questioning is it worth it to retell their stories over and over again and relive their trauma.
In your opinion, how has social media and the #MeToo movement impacted views and knowledge around sexual harassment?
The #MeToo Movement made its mark on this world in 2017 and is now, inspiring and prompting millions of survivors to speak out about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. Christine Blasey Ford came forward about her sexual assault in 1982 by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee in July of 2018. Knowing that she would have to relive her trauma in front of the whole world and receive backlash, she felt it was her responsibility to tell her truth and inspired many survivors to report their stories. President Trump tweeted out questioning Ford’s credibility, “if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says it is” she or parents would have reported it to the police back then. This sparked survivors to share their stories of why they didn’t report their assault using the #WhyIDidntReport, emphasizing the difficulties, distress, shame, and fear surrounding sexual assault. But the movement still has a long way to go.
The #MeToo movement has grown tremendously over the past few years. How do you feel about the movement and where it is today?
Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement and a civil rights activist, even states that at one point, the focus shifted majority on the issue of Hollywood perpetrators with mostly white female celebrities speaking out on their experiences with sexual assault and misconduct. Tarana further discusses that there are millions of voices going unnoticed, such as women of color, indigenous women and minorities, trans women, queer women, et cetera, with their stories being untold. Survivors have longed to see themselves being represented in an everyday capacity. There is no doubt that the movement has made such an impactful and positive global change to the world, giving a platform for survivors to no longer be held silent and voice their stories to the world! But we must see that the movement continuously evolves to be intersectional, to have survivors represented, to share to the world their stories, to charge towards justice, and that means we all fight and unite to create change.
How does the app, Safe Squad work, and how does it help in a dangerous situation?
For a period of time, I struggled with the fact that I was raped. I was angry and frankly didn’t understand how a person could get away with such a horrible assault. Alternatively, I realized that I could not change what happened to me in the past but I had the power to change my narrative and be empowered by helping others who were unable to speak out. For me, that was the best part of healing. I am proud to be a part of survivor-based advocacy and be contributing to a solution for a better and safer world.
Safe Squad Mobile App provides the ultimate safety for users and peace of mind for their loved ones. It is equipped with a discrete calendar interface not to be recognized by a potential perpetrator as a safety app and a color-safe code to validate one’s identity via an automatic SOS messaging system that will alert the user’s chosen emergency contacts with their location. So the next girl out there doesn’t have to say #MeToo.
What are the significant issues with other safety apps on the market?
With the current safety apps on the market, there lie five significant issues:
1.) They are based on one’s ability to pay.
2.)They solely cater to a specific demographic.
3.) They are location services apps.
4.) The internal part of the app isn’t discrete.
5.) They are good in theory but fall short functionality-wise.
What makes Safe Squad unique from its competitors?
Unlike other apps on the market that cater to a sole demographic of users, we aim to ensure inclusivity and accessible safety for all demographics, regardless of disability, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status. As of now, Safe Squad is available in 156 countries. So when we discuss our users we aren’t merely talking in the context of the United States but rather on an international scale.
Is there a specific reason the app is designed with a discrete look and uses a color-safe code to validate one’s identity?
The internal interface of the app serves as a calendar to be discrete and not be recognized by a potential perpetrator as a safety app. As for our color-safe code, it severs as an additional barrier of protection to authenticate one’s identity with a color code specifically formulated for each user. A code that can not easily be replicated.
Did you face any challenges while creating the app, Safe Squad?
My biggest challenge these days is keeping the app free in all 155 countries as it is very costly - I had used my hard-earned college fund to jumpstart it but now am looking toward partnerships and sponsors to support the app so that we can continue to keep it free of charge for everyone.
Being a survivor, have you learned anything from working with other survivors?
As a result of Safe Squad, I have had the opportunity to meet other survivors and have found comfort in our shared experience. Even though the reason we confided in one another was not positive, I am thankful to have met so many inspirational women, who encourage me to continue to progress in both my healing journey and the app. This also happens to be what I love most about creating the app.
Do you have any words of encouragement to share with other survivors who may be tuning in?
Healing isn't linear. It’s a journey filled with ups and downs. Self-care is a powerful and laboratory practice.
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