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Viola Walk Home: an app against gender-based violence

A project conceived by Roman psychologist Laura De Dilectis together with her colleagues Ilaria Saliva and Georgia Spencer Davison to help women feel safer when they return home alone.

reading time6 minutes

‘When I go out, I want to be free, not brave’ is a phrase that echoes on the notice boards of associations active against violence against women and also on the walls of several cities in Italy. There are too many and too frequent assaults that women are forced to suffer in the most diverse circumstances throughout their lives. It is the numbers that say it, and they are merciless. According to ISTAT data, 31.5 per cent of women between 16 and 70 years of age (6 million 788 thousand) have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime; 20.2 per cent (4 million 353 thousand) have experienced physical violence, 21 per cent (4 million 520 thousand) sexual violence, and 5.4 per cent (1 million 157 thousand) the most serious forms of sexual violence such as rape (652 thousand) and attempted rape (746 thousand). No wonder, then, and unfortunately, that even simply going out alone can become a problem.

Getting home safely

Roman psychologist Laura De Dilectis must have thought of all this when, with her partners and colleagues Ilaria Saliva and Georgia Spencer Davison, she conceived and created the Viola Walk Home project, a free app that helps women return home safely. The app will be released on Google Play and Apple Store in December 2023, but you can already register on the site to become a tester.

Founded by the Italian association DONNEXSTRADA, Viola is a start-up active since 2022, created as a reaction to the death of Sarah Everard, 33, who was kidnapped while walking home alone in Brixton, London. The company’s goal is to create a safer society by addressing the various and complex issues of gender-based violence.

Currently, there is a video call service running on Instagram 24 hours a day, every day of the week. The service is available in Italian and English for anyone who wants to feel safer going home. To access it, simply book a video call with one of the many volunteers who make up the VIOLA community.

In addition to the possibility of calling the police directly from the screen, the mere fact of being engaged in a video call often works as an effective deterrent against aggression and violence.

Viola spots

However, the project is not limited to the virtual world. In fact, Greta Martinez, a councillor of the association, came up with the idea of ‘Viola spots’, places, such as bars and restaurants in busy nightlife areas, where one can take refuge in case of danger. “Several times in Rome, I was afraid when going home at night. Several times, I felt I was being followed, and in those cases, I wished I could find a place where I could seek shelter and ask for help,” Greta said. In this way, also through collaboration with institutions, universities, municipalities, and the police, a network is created that enables women to feel more comfortable in cities’ nocturnal spaces.

Best social impact startup

In December 2022, Laura received the Woman in Business – Women of Europe Awards 2022 in Brussels, awarded to female personalities working to reduce the gender gap and discrimination. She recently received the Millenium Award, which is aimed at showcasing excellence in creativity and innovation of people under 30. Viola was voted the best social impact startup!

Congratulations to those committed to women’s safety and bringing Made in Italy solutions to the world!

Read the stories of other outstanding Made in Italy companies in Lazio.