Meet the Woman — & the Device — Taking on Sexual Assault
Yasmine Mustafa is fueled by a passion to leverage technology for good. She's the co-founder and CEO of Roar for Good, a B-corp aimed at helping protect women using safety wearable accessories and empathy education. She's also the founder of Girl Develop It Philadelphia, a nonprofit aimed at lessening the gender gap in technology. In addition, she sits on the board of Coded by Kids, a nonprofit that helps inner city youth learn how to code.
Now, just in time for students going back to college, Roar is launching a new product called Athena — a wearable device and personal safety app that allows users to set a status and location and then check in to let others know they're safe. It also lets users send an alert message to authorities in the event of an emergency.
SheKnows sat down with Mustafa ahead of Athena's launch to get the lowdown on this new device aiming to combat sexual assault and rape culture.
SheKnows: How did you first get the idea for Athena?
Yasmine Mustafa: During my six-month solo trek through South America, I listened to countless stories from women who had experienced assault or abuse. Then, a week after I returned to Philadelphia, a woman was brutally raped one block from my apartment. The idea for developing a wearable safety device was born after learning that many women do not like existing self-defense tools.
Whether they are afraid of accidentally using their own self-defense tool on themselves or that they would be overpowered and their device used as a weapon against them, existing safety tools are just not cutting it for many. After realizing that existing solutions (pepper spray, tasers, etc.) were made by men and did not account for women’s needs, my co-founder and I banded together to devise a solution that was stylish, can help deter an attack, will alert help when needed and can’t be used against the person wearing it. That’s how the idea for Athena came about.
SK: How is Athena different from other similar wearable devices or phone apps that aim to do the same thing?
YM: We differ in terms of style, features and our social impact. We’re the only wearable in the market that was made to be stylish and discreet — something women want to wear. We’re also the only ones with various modes, which includes a built-in 95 [decibels or higher] alarm to help deter an attack (devised with the help of self-defense instructors and police officers — silent mode is also available).
That said, we see Roar as so much more than a “product” company. While our Athena safety device was designed to help reduce assaults and get immediate help, our larger mission to use our business as a force for good drives everything that we do. We’re honored to be a Certified B Corporation, which means we meet rigorous social, environmental, transparency as well as accountability standards and are committed to using the power of our business to solve social problems. We don’t do these things to appeal to a particular generation or demographic — we do them because we feel they are the right things to do to make an impact.
SK: What do you hope to achieve with Athena?
YM: We are dedicated to helping reduce assaults. In the short term, we solved this by innovating on existing self-defense tools. Athena was made by women for women — it’s a simple device that connects to loved ones with the push of a button. It can also sound a loud alarm, and by late summer, we’ll also be adding 911 capabilities. In the long term, our goal is tackle societal norms that perpetuate violence and rape culture through our RoarBack program by investing in educational programs that teach young kids about respect, consent and healthy relationships.
SK: With many people going back to college soon, this seems to be a good time to invest in Athena. How do you see the product changing the way we handle/view sexual assault on college campuses?
YM: Our hope is that all women can one day live their lives without any fear of assault, discrimination or attack of any form. Moving towards gender equality will ultimately make a significant difference in this.
This includes having more men take action as allies and speak up on behalf of women (and minorities) to shift the normalization of today’s rape culture. It also means getting more women in leadership positions — both in corporations and government. Most importantly, it means creating an environment in which assault is unacceptable and survivors are not afraid to come forward to get justice. It’s these types of initiatives that will truly make a difference in bridging the gender gap to reduce incidents of sexual violence.
SK: Is Athena exclusively for women, or do you see it being helpful for other populations?
YM: Not at all! Though we market to women living in urban areas, we found out during our Indiegogo campaign that many people were purchasing Athena for their grandparents, children and others. We believe everyone has the right to feel empowered.
SK: Is there anything else you want people to know about Athena?
YM: We’re officially out of preorder mode — we shipped more than 10,000 devices last week! Also, our free Roar personal safety apps are out and available on iOS and Android, we announced a partnership to provide 911 capabilities this October, and we’re currently working with companies that want to buy Athenas for their employees.
Finally, both my co-founder Anthony and I say that nothing would make us happier than putting ourselves out of business. We want to live in a world where Athena isn’t needed, and we are committed to making that happen by donating to programs that get to the root cause of violence against women.