BOSTON, MS — An Indian American scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a sticker-like wearable sensor that can detect sexual assault in real time and quickly alert nearby people as well as the victim’s friends and family to seek help.
The sensor, which can be attached like a sticker to any piece of clothing, could be trained to learn the difference between when a person is undressing wilfully and when they are being forcefully disrobed, claims Manisha Mohan, research assistant at MIT.
This allows the sensor to detect signs of an assault even when the victim is unconscious or not in the position to fight against the assaulter, such as in case of minors, bed-ridden patients or intoxicated people.
An integrated bluetooth connected to a smartphone app can trigger a loud noise to alert people nearby and send out distress signals to pre-defined family members or emergency services.
The sensor works in two modes: in the passive mode, the wearer is assumed to be conscious and can set off loud alarms or distress calls on their own by touching a button when they encounter an approaching threat; in the active mode, the sensor tries to detect signals from the external environment.
For example, if somebody is trying to remove the clothing off the victim’s body, a message is sent to the smartphone to confirm if the act was done with consent.
If the victim does not respond within 30 seconds, the phone begins to emit a loud noise to alert the user and nearby people.
If the victim does not stop this alarm using a pre-defined password within the next 20 seconds, the smartphone app can automatically send distress signals to family or friends, along with the location of the victim.
Mohan’s experience as an engineering student in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, inspired her to create the device.
“Female students on campus were not allowed to work beyond certain hours. You were expected to be back in your dorm by 6:30 pm,” Mohan said. “Instead of asking them to remain indoors, I think we should provide more safety for them,” she said.