One of the biggest challenges facing Australia is that of family, domestic and sexual violence. Despite a rising rate of incidents, the sector response remains reactive and reliant on formal services such as police, which have limited power to intervene in these personal and complex issues. As a result, interventions often only take place once significant emotional, psychological or physical harm have occurred. What is needed is a new solution, one that is focused on preventative measures and collective community response.
In a world-first, StandbyU Foundation has developed a new innovative way to support families at risk of abuse and ensure they can always access the help they need.
The StandbyU Shield is built on Microsoft Azure and accessed via standard smartwatches. It creates a secure means for people at risk to stay connected to friends, family and support workers. At the simple click of a button, the person at risk can immediately contact their support network, who can listen in, see their location and organise any assistance needed.
At the heart of the solution lies human connections, with long-standing research showing that feeling connected is the biggest contributor a long, healthy, and happy life, reducing levels of anxiety, increasing confidence, and making people less vulnerable to abuse.
The StandbyU Shield promises to transform the domestic abuse sector, creating a shift from short-term, reactive interventions to a long-term, preventative solution that improves not only physical safety, but also the family’s mental health and wellbeing.
The need for a safe, secure and reliable solution drove StandbyU Foundation’s decision to utilise Microsoft Azure, as StandbyU Foundation Founder and Executive Director, Chris Boyle explains, “People experiencing abuse have learnt to distrust technology. We needed to provide a solution that gives them complete confidence that they are in control and safe.”
The solution was recently trialled by the Australian Government and the results clearly demonstrate that helping people at risk stay connected to friends and family effectively prevents and reduces the ongoing impact of abuse.
In the 12-month period, 3,000 alerts for help were sent by the 100 women taking part and, in every case, the support networks were able to answer these calls effectively and safely – with additional assistance from police required on only one occasion.
During the trial, over 400 community members became first responders, effectively answering calls that may otherwise be directed to police and freeing up emergency services to look after more serious community issues, responding only when needed.
In a survey of trial participants, 93% agreed that their StandbyU Shield significantly increased their safety and all agreed it significantly increased their wellbeing, as one woman explained, “Having the StandbyU Shield has given me lots more strength… It gives me a bit more strength to say I am safe, I am leaving, I am getting out of here.”
Another woman explained, “It just gives me my freedom back to freely choose what I want to do, where I want to go”, whilst another added, “My 8-year-old has learnt to swim, ride a bike, she [is] not scared, [and is] eating food now… she is happier… It has given us more freedom, and it has given us more safety out.” Women and children also reported feeling more confident to share their experiences, with the audio recordings providing evidence to take further legal action if needed.
For friends and family members, the StandbyU Shield offers a safe way to intervene and provide support to loved ones, as one mother shared, “For her, it is her personal safety, and for me that peace of mind that I know she could contact me if she needs.”