Originally posted on Forbes on August 28, 2017, as written by Christine Michel Carter.
Some members of generation Z are within their highest risk years for rape and sexual assault, and females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. As these children of older millennials start college looking to address the issue of assault at its root (and taking measures to ensure their safety), one Philadelphia company has innovated the self-defense industry via a safety wearable.
Athena is a device created by ROAR for Good which connects users to loved ones with the push of a button. When activated, which is done by pressing the button on the device, a user’s location is shared with loved ones. Users are notified within the app that they are being “checked on” by friends and family and Athena gives a short vibration letting the user know whenever a friend or family member begins watching over them.
Athena has two modes: SilentROAR, which sends a distress message without an alarm and Alarm Mode, which sounds an alarm to emergency contacts. Athena also has 911 calling capabilities and via the ROAR Personal Safety app, users also have access to self-defense videos, general safety awareness tips, and the latest news related to gender equality.
During a six-month solo trek through South America, ROAR for Good Co-founder and CEO Yasmine Mustafa listened to countless stories from women who had experienced assault or abuse. Then, a week later after returning to Philadelphia, a woman was brutally raped one block from her apartment. For 35-year-old Mustafa, the idea for developing a wearable safety device was born after learning many women do not like existing self-defense tools.
Though the global non-lethal weapons market is expected to reach over $8 billion in the next three years, Mustafa discovered the industry itself hadn’t innovated in nearly a century. Pepper spray and electroshock weapons (Tasers, stun guns) had also all been made by men for men and were simply “shrinked and pinked” in an order to sell these same products to women. All these factors led Mustafa to the conclusion women needed a self-defense product created by a woman:
Whether they were afraid of accidentally using their own self-defense tool on themselves or that they would be overpowered and their device used as a weapon against them, existing safety tools were just not cutting it for many. After realizing that existing solutions did not account for women’s needs, my co-founder and I banded together to devise a solution that was stylish, could help deter an attack, would alert help when needed, and couldn’t be used against the person wearing it. That solution is Athena.
ROAR for Good transformed the self-defense industry with innovation grounded in unmet female consumer needs: safety, discreteness, and empowerment. In fact, the design of Athena as a modular device that users can clip anywhere came from the input of over a dozen personal defense instructors & police officers. Recently Comcast NBCUniversal purchased Athena devices for their annual TECHWomen conference and Athena devices are being used in pilot programs at Philadelphia universities. RapidSOS has also recently announced a partnership with ROAR for Good to make it easier to send a precise location, emergency type and real-time health information to first responders during a crash or a medical emergency.
Mustafa shares two questions which shaped their business strategy: how can ROAR for Good help make a difference by helping women live their lives boldly today, and what can they do to get to the root causes of violence so that society no longer needs safety devices? Mustafa added:
I believe that technology is a great equalizer in helping the underserved. It’s helping blind people see, deaf people hear, disabled people walk again to name a few. The concept of “balancing” the system drives me personally and has inspired me to build a business that’s a force for good.
Mustafa notes ROAR for Good’s user community and consumers are comprised mostly of women in urban cities, runners, and parents with teenagers and college students. These groups are often most concerned about their safety or those of their loved ones. Environmental and political factors also heightened the awareness of Athena: the conversation around assault and violence against women – specifically on college campuses – has increased in recent years. As survivors share their stories and tackle rape culture, they have called attention to Athena and ROAR for Good’s mission. Mustafa also adds since the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump ROAR for Good has seen an uptick in outreach from Muslim women and people of color.
ROAR for Good envisions themselves serving the world beyond providing safety wearables. In fact, a large majority of their user community are not Athena consumers, yet they help ROAR for Good facilitate a worldwide movement around safety and empowerment:
We see ROAR as so much more than a “product” company. While Athena was designed to help reduce assaults and get immediate help, our larger mission to use our business as a force for good drives everything that we do. As a Certified B Corporation, we met rigorous social, environmental, transparency, as well as accountability standards and are committed to using the power of our business to solve social problems.
ROAR for Good declined to provide financial figures but states while the company is focused on growth, they are committed to helping create a world that’s safer, where anyone can live their life boldly. Mustafa adds ROAR for Good has a road map of groundbreaking products and solutions with the potential to result in an even greater societal impact. But the true measure of success will be if their company helps reduce violence against women.
One Athena device costs $129. For each device sold, ROAR for Good shares a portion of its proceeds to educational programs that have been shown to increase empathy and reduce violence. In the long-term, ROAR for Good hopes to tackle societal norms that perpetuate violence and rape culture by investing in educational programs that specifically teach younger generations about respect, consent, and healthy relationships.