Story by Alexandra Duval
Edited for online by Conor Tobin

A world-first smartphone app that enables victims of domestic violence to send emergency text messages to friends or call police has been criticised as ill-effective.

A screen shot of the app showing emergency call button down the bottom. Source: iTunes
A screen shot of the app showing an emergency call button down the bottom. Source: Apple

Women NSW and the Department of Family and Community Services are behind the app which aims to provide help to people experiencing domestic and family violence.

Cairns Regional Domestic Violence Service manager Amanda Lee-Ross said the app could be useful to some but detrimental in others.

“There are definitely other people who would need to think about whether or not it actually increases their safety or whether it actually makes things trickier for them,” she said.

“There’s going to be some victims where their partner will be checking their phone.

“If they came across an app like this it could be quite confronting for them.”

Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research director Heather Nancarrow said despite the pitfalls the benefits of the app make it worthwhile.

“It is mainly young women who are in these situations of vulnerability, the more tools that we can give them to help them ensure their safety the better,” she said.

Ms Nancarrow says the concern the app may incite further violence is a risk but emergency services should be the first point of contact.

“Generally women in those situations know their partner and the partners’ behaviour,” she said.

“They’re survivors because they know and are able to predict his behaviour often, if they felt that there was a risk of that happening then they may not put it (the app) on.

“If they’re in immediate danger then the message that should always be pushed is call the police.”

The app can be downloaded from the iOS App Store