One year ago, in a Malaysian parking garage in broad daylight, Xin-Ci Chin was abducted as she loaded her shopping bags into her boyfriend’s car. Two strange men approached her and held Chin at knifepoint, telling her to stay quiet and shoving her into the backseat of the car.
She didn’t struggle or fight at first, giving her captors time to let down their guard as they started the car. As they pulled out onto the street, she leapt into action, kicking open the car door and struggling until they panicked and let her go. She escaped into a nearby shopping center where she was able to get help. (I’m happy to report that one of her abductors was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison.)
The full story of Chin’s escape is incredible, but what is even more amazing is how she is using this experience to empower other women around the world. She’s spent the last year collaborating with app developers to create a personal safety solution for anyone (especially women) concerned about working or traveling in a risky area.
Using the app is simple — you just log in when you start an activity like jogging, walking to your car or meeting someone for the first time. Then you set the amount of time the activity should take. If you fail to check back in at the end of the activity, Watch Over Me sends a notification to your emergency contacts, activates GPS tracking of your location and starts taking photos of your surroundings so that help can find you. You can also trigger an emergency alert manually with the app’s “panic button.” The app will even send out an alert if you lose your connection or your phone is turned off by an attacker.
Chin isn’t just giving other women the tools they need to stay safe — she’s also working on changing hearts and minds when it comes to the treatment of crime victims in Malaysia. First, she’s co-founded a Facebook movement to spread inspiring stories of random acts of kindness within Malaysia.
She’s also speaking out in major publications like Esquire Malaysia against what she sees as a culture of victim blaming, revealing how police blamed her abduction on her clothing and appearance, asking her if she was wearing jewelry or carrying an expensive handbag. She also speaks about the kindness of strangers who helped her after she escaped her attackers. In the article, Chin urges readers to change the cultural climate with a few powerful words:
It’s your choice.
You get to choose whether you want the narrative of our culture to be one that condemns and judges, or one that loves and accepts. In a world where there are people who are victim blamed, I know that there are people who will also extend care and empathy, and these people matter. They are the ones who help things get better.
Be that person.
Photo credit: Osman Kalkavan