Local News

New app Free To Be lets women mark 'unsafe' spots in the city to warn others

''Street harassment is a bigger issue in our country than we like to acknowledge.''

By Bettina Tyrrell
Unfortunately most women will have experienced feeling unsafe as they walk home at night, or even as they go about their day, at some point. Now, women in Sydney can tag the areas were they have been harassed or made to feel unsafe in a new online app called Free To Be, available as of today.
Free To Be is an interactive map, where women can plot areas in Sydney city and surrounds and list them as either a 'Good Spot' or 'Bad Spot'. Users of the app are also given the option to anonymously detail why it is they pinned the area as unsafe and record a particular incident should they wish. Entries for the map will remain open until May 28.
"Lots of construction workers, shouting vulgarities from cars/utes or under their breath as they walk past. This happens more in the mornings I find. Makes me feel uneasy," one app user next to a pinned location in Sydney.
Children's charity Plan International Australia launched the app in partnership with CrowdSpot and Monash University, with the aim to reclaim the city for young women by identifying areas they don't feel safe in and feeding the information back to councils, public transport operators and police.
Susanne Legena, the CEO of Plan International Australia explained that when they launched a Free To Be Melbourne map last year, thousands of young women shared "extremely concerning" experiences of harassment.
"What surprised us about the Melbourne map was the scale and severity of incidents described by young women and just how common those were, whether it's stalking, intimidation, being cat-called and even serious assaults. We expect we'll see a similar result in Sydney. This should be a light bulb moment for anyone with a stake in city planning and safety that we need to make big changes to make our cities welcoming spaces for everyone, not just for some," Ms Legena said.
"Street harassment is a bigger issue in our country than we like to acknowledge. It has become so common that it's seen as part of the daily experience of a woman. Girls here in Australia and abroad have told us that they don't feel empowered to talk about it or report it. Instead, they modify their routines to avoid being harassed, " she added.
Sydney is one of five locations worldwide where the Free To Be map launches today, including: Dehli, Kampala, Lima, Sydney and Madrid.
If you need help or support now phone The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).