Free App is Helping Women Tackle Domestic Violence in Iran

In response to the day-to-day violence and legal limitations facing many women in Iran (and beyond), a new app aims to put the power and tools for creating real change in a safe, accessible format, and into women’s own hands, Forbes Magazine reports. Now available free for Android (and iOS soon), Toranj is designed to quickly connect victims of domestic violence with the resources and support they need to be safe, both in the moment and long term.

Like the popular safety app Circle of 6, which was first developed to combat sexual assault on campuses, Toranj lets users reach out to a group of trusted contacts during emergencies with just a few taps to a user’s smartphone.

Designed to help anyone who finds himself in a situation that could end in domestic violence, Toranj, allows the user to ask for immediate help with the push of a button. A user downloads Toranj and sets up a series of text messages that can be sent to the police or selected contacts when they feel unsafe.

There are two messages already drafted: “Call the police” and “Get here fast.” A user can set up any message and press a “HELP” button to send the messages. The user can share their GPS location with the push of a button. Additionally, Toranj offers users access to long-term help. The app’s researchers have compiled a database of counselors, therapists, and family attorneys who offer services to victims of domestic violence, free of charge.

The third section of Toranj offers legal advice, documents and sample briefings to women who are in abusive marriages and want to find the best way to navigate Iran’s challenging legal system. Toranj also offers educational material on understanding domestic violence and self-assessments on whether the app user’s relationship is within a healthy realm. Toranj has been through extensive security testing and doesn’t collect personal data.

In Iran, where almost two thirds of married women reportedly experience some kind of abusive behavior at home, the app has already been downloaded over 40,000 times within a few months of launching.

The police and judicial system are of little help. If a battered woman calls the police, it’s unlikely they would intervene. The traditional attitude toward marital conflict in Iran inclines people to mediate between the couple. In many cases the woman is sent back to her violent home.

In Iran, as in many parts of the world, domestic violence and other acts of abuse against women are too common.

A 2003 study found 66% of married women in Iran have been subjected to some kind of violence and 60% of women that asked for a divorce have suffered some form of domestic violence at the hands of their husbands. Even worse, 50% of Iranian women silently experience domestic abuse; fewer than 35% report to law enforcement.