This mobile app assists victims of abuse during lockdown

For a country with the world's highest rate of femicide, the 21-day lockdown is a dangerous period for many victims of abuse.

For most of us, the stress of being cooped up in our homes is starting to feel all too real. If just surviving the lockdown is affecting our anxiety levels it’s hard to imagine how much worse the lockdown must be if you have been locked inside with an abusive partner.

AI for Good in partnership with Soul City Institute for Social justice and Sage Foundation have developed a chatbot aimed at offering help to South Africans who are living in abusive homes.

rAInbow chatbot: Here’s what you need to know

The 21-day lockdown is a terrifying prospect for countless women around the country. Sadly abusive partners won’t suddenly become perfect companions just because we’ve all been locked in for 21 days.

Threat escalates

If anything, the stress of the lockdown along with the threat of unemployment and money troubles means that these already problematic home lives could become even more toxic.

Alcohol is often a catalyst for domestic violence with victims of abuse, noting that their partners were often more likely to lash out after alcohol use. The government has taken the brave step to ban alcohol sales during the lockdown.

However, the lines at bottle stores in the lead up to the lockdown is a clear sign that many households stocked up for the full 21 days.

Partners who previously may have been out at bars and shebeens drinking will now be locked at home with their partners and families.

rAInbow chatbot in Facebook messenger

For a country with the world’s highest rate of femicide, this is a particularly dangerous position that many abuse victims will be forced to confront.

The rAInbow chatbot can be found in Facebook messenger and aims to help anyone who is worried about their personal situation or who is looking for advice for family or friends.

The chatbot is available 24/7 and won’t ask you for any personal information. Anything shared with rAInbow will remain strictly confidential.

The idea of enlisting an AI chatbot to assist with such a serious problem might seem strange. RAInbow is not meant to replace human interaction, though.

Getting to the next step

The chatbot, which has been co-built with survivors, is designed to “help users validate their experiences and navigate the next steps”.

The rAInbow chatbot has “an empathetic, friendly persona”. Interactions with the chatbot are designed to let victims who may be feeling shame about their situation find some comfort in opening up with no fear of judgement.

You can chat to rAInbow from virtually any device that can connect to the internet. Type ‘chat2bo’ or ‘Hi Rainbow’ on Facebook Messenger, or follow this link, to start a new conversation: http://m.me/chat2bo

You can also visit www.hirainbow.org for more information, and click ‘Start talking’ to chat. The website also has many interactive areas with stories, quizzes, resources and definitions to learn about abuse and information about how to deal with abuse.

Report abuse to the government’s hotline on 0800 150 150. The COVID-19 support page can be accessed here: https://www.hirainbow.org/covid-19 

Original article from The South African, by Cheryl Kahla

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