5 Women Just Designed an Online Game That Can Prevent Sexual Assault

Free virtual self-defense classes easily and quickly show women how to protect themselves.

The WAW team (Photo: WAW)


Apr 25, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Although India boasts the fastest-growing economy in the world, recent headlines have shed light on a darker side of the country: its sexual assault epidemic.

High-profile cases—including that of a woman allegedly attacked by her Uber driver, and the government’s decision to ban the film India’s Daughter, centering on the 2012 fatal attack of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in Delhi—have made women’s safety an urgent issue. While the government has developed harsher punishments to discourage assailants and protect women, a group of young engineers is working to create a new, online solution that can help prevent assault from occurring in the first place.

Known as “We Are Women,” five female students from India’s Amrita University—Anjana S, Athira S, Durga S, Pooja Prakash and Sreedevi Pillai—have developed a virtual self-defense game to teach women and girls how to respond when they feel threatened.

The game is still in an early-development phase, but the objective is simple. It features a young woman approached by a man on the street and, through the game, the girl kicks, punches, and runs away from her attacker with a few flicks of the keys. Users can easily and quickly learn potentially lifesaving defensive moves in the comfort and privacy of home.

“Being followed on the way to school, even teasing at the bus stop, groped and pinched in crowded places, are some of the situations that a woman encounters at some point in her life,” the group of students wrote to TakePart. “We believe moving images and animations can have a profound effect on our memory. This game will help women to relate to their real-life situation.”

A screenshot from the online game. (Photo: WAW)

The startling rate of sexual assault in India proves that its streets and public places are not always safe for women. Approximately 92 women were raped in India every single day in 2013, according the National Crime Records Bureau. The number of allegations are also up, to 33,707 in 2013 from 24,923 in 2012. And because many cases go unreported, those numbers only reflect the women who have come forward to the police.

Scrutiny and criticism often discourage women living in the highly patriarchal society to report crimes, and demeaning procedures such as the “two-finger” test or virginity test for rape victims were outlawed only last year.

Some women have taken to protecting themselves by carrying pepper spray, seeking female-operated transportation, and enrolling in self-defense classes, but an online course offers a quick and easy education.

“Online games can teach real-world lessons,” the group explained. “A lot of people lack time and don’t enroll for any special classes. Women and children can play this game as a part of a short break. It’s more like a combination of learning, fun, and awareness.”

Next, the team is looking to create more virtual scenarios for the game, including harrassment in the workplace, on public transportation, and on crowded streets.

Their ultimate goal is to put the power back in the hands of women. Each morning, before the group begins their work for the day, they chant, “Lokah Samastah Sukino Bhavantu.” This translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

“This is our driving force,” the women explained.