Domestic violence is a terrible set of behaviors that are, ultimately, about control. With October being National Domestic Violence Month, we have come together to highlight how technology—specifically app-based platforms—are helping survivors flip the switch and provide more freedom and control over their own lives.
First, let’s recognize the horrifying scale of domestic violence in the U.S. As many as 1 in 3 women are subjected to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking at some point in their lives, and the rate is even higher for women of color, Native American women, and members of the LGBTQ community. That’s millions of domestic violence survivors who are left without any real semblance of control over their own lives.
To regain that control, survivors should have access to every tool available. From control over how, when, and where you earn income to control over where you are and where you’ll stay, app-based platforms can provide a crucial tool to give greater control to domestic violence survivors.
We know that escaping an abusive relationship frequently means losing financial stability. And that all too often, survivors who summon the courage to walk away return to the abusive situation for financial reasons. App-based work—from ride-share to delivery—can provide flexible income opportunities for survivors to begin their life anew.
For instance, Sheri Homer from Georgia shared her story last fall, noting how she started making deliveries for Grubhub after leaving her abusive spouse. With two small children, including one with special needs, Sheri found that the flexibility of app-based platforms “provided [her] a way to support [her] children and give them a better future.”
We also know that transportation is crucial for survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence. Transportation helps survivors make their way to safe places and for those who have reached safety to then reach locations offering critical services. This is why in some communities, like the District of Columbia, Uber partners with Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC) to provide free rides for sexual assault survivors accessing a medical forensic exam at a local hospital 24/7.
Providing a free ride to and from the hospital that is arranged by an on-call sexual assault advocate not only alleviates financial barriers for survivors, but also addresses possible anxieties or concerns that could arise by having to arrange for transportation themselves. This is why Lyft and Uber both provided free rides to shelters and safe spaces during the early days of the pandemic—when incidents of domestic violence jumped.
Today, app-based rideshare platforms continue to serve as an important tool for domestic violence survivors in crucial ways:
If you need to leave your residence quickly, rideshare apps offer a discrete and often very rapid and round-the-clock transportation option.
If you want share your trip information with close family and friends, rideshare apps offer real-time tracking features, offering an additional security layer.
If you left your wallet or purse left behind in leaving a situation, ridesharing apps offer cashless payment options or the option to pay with saved credit card information.
With the ubiquity of smartphones, ridesharing apps offer an accessible option for a wide range of communities—from those who are visually and hearing impaired to those who do not have a vehicle of their own.
If you need to access critical healthcare services right away, rideshare apps provide a mobility solution to help survivors access those healthcare resources.
Delivery-focused app platforms have also taken important steps to prevent, address, and respond to domestic violence. For instance, DoorDash and Instacart have partnered with key organizations to provide resources on sex trafficking and domestic violence to survivors on their app platforms.
App platforms are also leveraging automated technologies to unlock other safety benefits at scale, such as monitoring for instances of unusual activities, such as long stops and route abnormalities. This focus on safety extends to drivers and deliverers on app-based platforms, as well. For example, rideshare drivers may opt to integrate safety features on their rides—such as dashcams or audio recordings to capture the entirety of the trip.
We recognize more can be done, and there is no panacea to solving the scourge of domestic violence. However, as technology enables new ways of earning income, of traveling to where you need to go, and of securing the goods and services you need, app-based platforms can help domestic violence survivors in meaningful ways. That is a development we should all applaud.
Bridgette Stumpf is executive director and co-founder of the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. Kristin Sharp serves on NVRDC’s board and is the CEO of Flex, an industry association representing America’s leading app-based rideshare and delivery platforms.