An Interview with Mercedes Molloy
Mercedes Molloy is the founder of SafeSquad, an app committed to providing peace of mind for young women and men across the globe. Championing for access to health care, representation in media, Mercedes looks forward to utilizing her platform to advocate for Generation Z and disenfranchised communities.
After a traumatic life event, Mercedes has made it her personal mission to provide a solution to alert mechanisms while in danger. It is her goal that the app will be a resource of armor among generation Z, millennials and individuals desiring peace of mind for dear family and friends. The young activist engages in conversations to bring about positive change from a place of service and progressing culture.
Content Warning: This article discusses issues such as rape and sexual assault. Viewer discretion is advised.
To open up the interview, I asked Mercedes what inspired her to create the app. She said that she created it as a response. She stated bluntly that 'for a long time, she struggled with the fact that she was raped'. She spoke to me a little about how that struggle looked – she was, justifiably, angry and frustrated that people could get away with such terrible things. However, Mercedes soon realised that she couldn’t change her past. She couldn’t change what had happened to her - she couldn't change the fact that her assaulters had gotten away. What she could do, however, was help prevent it from happening to anyone else. She had the power to change her own narrative, to empower herself by empowering others who were unable to speak out. She could help to ensure that the next person out there did not have to say #MeToo – because, as she says – “it’s a club that nobody should be part of”. Creating SafeSquad was a part of her own healing process – through it, she was able to become the role model she had always hoped to see.
Mercedes noted that all safety apps previously available in the market had five significant issues. She listed them as:
1) They are often paid services – therefore, their reach is limited to those who can pay
2) They solely cater to specific demographics (e.g. women)
3) They are location service apps that monitor the user’s location 24/7 (possibly being an invasion of privacy)
4) The internal appearance of the app is not discreet – it is obvious to any viewer that it is a safety app, rendering it far less useful
5) They theoretically work but are impractical.
Her goal with SafeSquad was to ensure inclusivity and practical, accessible safety for all. When she was browsing available safety apps, she was struck by the fact that they were almost all catered to specific demographics. She was determined that her app would include everyone, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, political affiliation or socioeconomic status. She also designed the app’s interface to appear like a calendar – ensuring that a potential perpetrator would not recognise it as a safety app. Additionally, SafeSquad isn’t a location services app, as not everyone wishes to be constantly monitored or tracked. Mercedes strongly believes that one should not have to compromise privacy for safety. Therefore, the user can choose whether to enable their emergency contacts and whether to input details of their timestamped location. If the user enables this, then in the event of danger an automatic messaging system will be activated, sending time and location details to their emergency contacts.
Despite Mercedes’ commitment to the app, she has faced some challenges during its launch and development. She has faced many naysayers who disregard her because of her gender, age and ethnicity – people have told her that “hope isn’t a successful business model” and that she was just another young person with her head in the clouds. However, Mercedes has consciously chosen to ignore the negativity and move forward with her ambitions. She knows that she has worked hard to be where she is, and she deserves any success she has had. And it’s clear that her success speaks for itself – SafeSquad has collaborations lined up with companies such as Sephora, Kendra Scott and Microsoft. Recently, their team partnered with Sephora at their Valley Fair location dedicated to providing free makeovers to survivors of domestic violence, rape and assault; Mercedes recalls this event with particular fondness as she remembers listening to the survivors share their stories and engage in conversation.
As Mercedes herself is a survivor, I asked her what advice she would give someone who is trying to better support survivors in their lives.
She recommends that first and foremost, one should be well-informed on sexual assault, that one should actively search for resources and attend support groups if possible. She also emphasizes on strengthening one’s bond of trust with the survivor. Survivors are people who have experienced severe violations of trust, and it’s not uncommon for them to find it difficult to trust others. She encourages people not to pry – to let survivors open up naturally and to choose to come to you. In the meantime? Ensure they know that they’re safe with you, that you care and that you’re willing to listen.
Mercedes also knows that if someone you care about has experienced a traumatic event, you are likely to be emotional about it yourself. While you’re entitled to have feelings regarding what happened, it’s important to put the survivor first. Do not put the weight of your emotions on their shoulders, as you may unwittingly make their process more difficult than it already is.
It’s also important to recognize the individual triggers that the survivor you know may have. Not everyone is the same, but sexual assault often leaves psychological damage, including PTSD. She highlights that it’s important not to take it personally if they pull away or need space from you – it’s often a symptom of what they are going through. Give them time to process and to be alone. Mercedes also provided a list of some common trauma triggers to keep an eye out for, including:
· Sudden or unexplained bouts of crying
· Anxiety and/or panic attacks
· Sudden physical symptoms such as nausea or fatigue
· Irritability, intrusive thoughts, being easily startled, hyper-vigilance or other signs that the mind is on alert for trouble or danger
· Unhealthy coping mechanisms such as partying or drinking
It’s also sometimes important to just ask a survivor what they need and how you can support them in their healing journey. Mercedes emphasizes on the need to recognize that healing isn’t a linear process – it’s a complicated journey with highs and lows. Everyone has their own time frame, and supporting and understanding that can be invaluable. Finally, she says that if you are sexually intimate with a survivor, ensure that you are actively seeking consent and that they know you are seeking consent. Letting them feel secure can make a world of difference.
To conclude the interview, I asked Mercedes about her goals and dreams for her app – what she would like to achieve. She wants the app to be available to help as many people as possible - she wants to collaborate with the police force and universities in order to help as many vulnerable individuals as possible. Finally, she wants SafeSquad to go global, to be available to anyone in the world who may need it.
To download SafeSquad, click here!