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Haven: Safety On Command

Sophia Braganza, Grade 10

Improved sexual and physical assault defense systems for post-secondary students are long overdue. In the past year, however, a university student power duo created a resource that addresses this prevalent safety concern, and for that, freshmen to seniors cannot be more grateful. “Haven” is their most recent and innovative creation; it is a mobile app targeted toward a user group looking to enhance their means of protecting themselves from predators on campus.

“Who invented ‘Haven’; what prompted them to do so?”

(Image by Karen Longwell)

The brains behind the business are a couple of University of Toronto computer engineering students: Nelson Lee and Ethan Hugh. As stated on their Instagram page @havensafeco at this link, https://www.instagram.com/p/CSo6QloHfyj/, they started putting their skills to the test after Lee’s friend opened up about her terrifying sexual assault experience. The scars of horror and sympathy ran deep after hearing the news, but the imprint it left in their innovative minds fueled them to get right to work in the summer of 2020.

“What was the first step taken in their plan of action?”

To justify the need for amplified campus safety platforms, Lee and Hugh reveal to The Varsity’s Randa Higazy - a writer for the University of Toronto newspaper - how crucial of a role that primary and secondary research played in the process (19-21). Sourced straight from Haven’s website at https://www.havensafe.co/about, they quote the findings from the government of Ontario which concludes that a whopping 63% of Ontarian university students have been sexually abused, in some way (5-6). Available on their Instagram, they also share the results of their conducted surveys, bringing to light that 83% of female students do not feel secure when alone at night. In addition, they mention notable points on the obsolescence of defense tools or makeshift weaponry that have not been upgraded in decades: rape whistles have been used for the past 50 years according to the Research Sharing Project, while the Smithsonian Museum states that keys have been used against aggressors for the past 118 years! All things considered, these students realized that accessible and practical protection methods had to modernize alongside a rapidly digitizing world.

“How does one use the app and what features are included?”

Having just launched last month - September 2021 - users have gotten a taste of what this hot new app has to offer! Covered by Nelson Lee in a series of Instagram reels, its four main features are:

  1. Emergency Mode: When the emergency button is held down, a location and danger alert are sent to a trusted emergency contact list of “angels” that can be manually logged into the system. From there, you can quickly sound a siren and call 911 with a ready-made template of details to include (the Haven founders worked directly with police and other experts for this feature and ensure credibility).

  2. Immediate Campus Police Contact: To contact campus police across Canada and in some American universities, simply type your school’s name in the search bar and select the corresponding option for a direct call.

  3. Destination Timer: By setting a timer for when you plan to arrive at a select location, angels sporadically receive updates on your whereabouts during your commute and are immediately informed if the destination timer is not set off, indicating that they should call to check on the user.

  4. Location Sharing: This feature allows users’ current location to be shared amongst their angels on a GPS notification system, but rest assured that in the name of privacy, you are not obligated to have your location on at all times.

Considering the recent assault cases at Western University, this app could not have come at a better time. After all, the idea of “Haven” sprouted from uttermost “tragedy,” and yet, its founders’ efforts resulted in providing a new generation of students with a life-saving miracle. It is in this light that we must acknowledge that there was a demand, and “Haven” answered the command.

(@havensafeco Instagram)

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