How an App Can Help Save Domestic Violence Victims, Survivors
Bright Sky launched this month in the U.S. in hopes of stopping domestic violence before it starts and give survivors hope of escape.
When a Pittsburgh area woman found herself in an abusive marriage, she wasn’t sure where to turn for help when she was finally ready to leave.
“It took me a long time to accept; it didn’t matter what other people said — even when I was going to work with bruises all over me,” she recalls. “When I was ready to leave after 13 years, I didn’t know where to get the resources I needed. That’s where Bright Sky would have been helpful.”
Bright Sky, founded in 2018 by Vodafone Group Foundation and UK-based crisis support charity Hestia, was launched in the U.S. in early March thanks to a partnership between the Vodafone Americas Foundation and the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
It is the only domestic violence support mobile app and website in the country and was launched with the support of NO MORE, DomesticShelters.org and Aspirant of Pittsburgh. Bright Sky can also be used in 12 other countries across the globe: the United Kingdom, Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania and South Africa.
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and economic and emotional/psychological abuse.
“What’s really important about Bright Sky is that it contains very accessible information about the different types of abuse, about coercion and control,” says Nicole Molinaro, president and CEO of the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. “There’s a risk assessment for anyone questioning whether they or a loved one is in an abusive relationship, there’s information on spotting red flags, a database of resources available across the country and important safety features for users.”
Molinaro encourages friends and family members of loved ones in abusive relationships to also download the app as a tool to help them once they are in a position to leave the situation.
Statistics show nearly 20 people per minute (or more than 10 million women and men) are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. In Pennsylvania, 37.1% of women and 30.4% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
“A really, really important statistic is 73% of women who are killed by their partners are killed when they leave or after they leave,” Molinaro adds. “Leaving is a very dangerous time and safety planning is very important.”
Bright Sky has all of the resources a victim or survivor needs to put a safety plan in place to safely escape.
“There are so many people who don’t believe survivors,” Molinaro says. “Someone who hasn’t experienced this use of power and control to systematically lower the victim’s self-esteem and self-confidence can’t see why the victim doesn’t just leave their abuser. They have no idea the complexities behind just leaving them.”
Bright Sky is meant to provide them with understanding and education, “which we hope contributes to a culture change that embraces the understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence,” Molinaro notes.
“The app empowers survivors to take hold of their own journey and go through it at their own pace,” she says. “Unfortunately, in cases of domestic violence, people are so often judged and faced with a lack of belief when they start talking to other people about their situation, so they are hesitant to seek help. The app doesn’t judge. It can open up avenues for understanding and realization that the relationship is abusive.”
Molinaro says anyone, regardless of their gender, religion or socioeconomic status, can be the victim of domestic violence.
“The Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh is commemorating its 50th anniversary next year. We were one of the first six domestic violence shelters in the country. Since inception, we have developed into providing comprehensive services to more than 7,700 adult survivors and children every year. We view our work as very critical in Allegheny County and we serve everyone, regardless of who they are and who they love. We want them to know that they are not alone, that there is life after domestic violence and that everyone deserves to be free from violence.”
The Pittsburgh area survivor hopes to help others out of similar situations and refers people to the Bright Sky app.
“It’s very hard to go through something like this, especially when people look at you and say, ‘Why didn’t you just leave?’ or ‘What did you do to make him do that?’”
She adds Bright Sky gives survivors the information they need in a manner that isn’t overwhelming.
“It’s not just for victims; it’s for friends, really anybody,” she says. “What’s nice about the app is you can use it safely across the country and it gives you places you can go to live and seek therapy. The amount of resources is amazing. I really wish I had it available to me.”
If you or anyone you know is the victim of domestic violence, seek help through the Bright Sky app (available for iOS and Android devices). If you are in crisis, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TheHotline.org.