Apple’s iOS 11 Emergency Services Update A ‘Step Forward’ For Women, But Charities Warn Of Potential Dangers

The update allows users to call the police without looking at their phone.

Women’s charities have praised the new iPhone update as a “positive step forward” in ending violence against women, but warned that if used in certain circumstances, the service may put vulnerable women in greater danger.

The iOS 11 update includes a new ‘Emergency SOS’ function, designed to help users discreetly call emergency services quickly without having to dial 999.

If users press the sleep/wake button on their phone five times, they are presented with a slide button that will make an SOS call when used. Settings can also be changed to remove this step and ‘auto call’ emergency services as soon as the five taps are made.

On Twitter, many have suggested the update could be of particular use to women, with a tweet on the topic going viral.

The iPhone update also allows users to set up “emergency contacts” in their phone - for example, trusted family members - who will be notified with their location as soon as they use this service.

If your phone is ‘auto call’ enabled, it will conduct a three-second count down before calling 999, allowing users to cut off the call if it has been placed by mistake.

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, told HuffPost UK the tool is “potentially a great piece of support for women at risk and we hope to hear more about it making a difference”.

“It’s good to know that tech companies have their eye on tech solutions to counter abuse of women,” she added.

“We hope there is work going on for example to disable and prevent the use of invisible tracking and surveillance apps by abusive men.”

Meanwhile Caitlin Roper, from women’s rights group Collective Shout, said although the function may “may be a useful tool, particularly for women who are at risk of men’s violence”, we should still use it with caution.

“It’s not without risk. If a woman should be caught trying to utilise this service in a domestic violence attack she may be in even greater danger,” she told HuffPost UK.

“Any new technological developments that connect women with aid services and help keep them safe are positive steps. But while an app or a mobile function could protect women from immediate harm in some circumstances, when it comes to addressing men’s violence, we need a more holistic approach.”

Roper pointed out that while the iPhone function may help women at risk of violence to call the police more discreetly, we should be focussing on ending the threat of violence against women altogether.

“In order to see meaningful change we must challenge the roots of male violence against women, such as attitudes of sexism and hostility to women, disrespect and entitlement to women’s bodies, and the normalised objectification of women,” she said.

“It’s not enough to simply help women contact police when their partners are assaulting them, we need men to stop assaulting them in the first place.”

Useful websites and headlines:

  • Refuge- Domestic violence help for women and children - 0808 2000 247
  • Visit Women’s Aid- support for abused women and children – or call the National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Women’s Aid and Refuge, on 0808 2000 247
  • Broken Rainbow- The LGBT domestic violence charity - 0845 2 60 55 60
  • Men’s Advice Linefor advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse - 0808 801 0327