This 18-Year-Old Coder is Using Tech to Help Sexual Assault Victims

Women are still vastly underrepresented in technology fields, but one 18-year-old coder is proving that when women code, they can change the world. After learning how to code, Sofia Ongele developed an app that provides resources to victims of sexual assault.

The app, called ReDawn, was the first app Ongele ever created. It addresses an issue which, in Ongele’s words, “the average programmer (a white male) probably wouldn’t have thought needed solving through tech.”

Ongele first became inspired to create the app after a sexual assault incident “hit very close to home”, and she wasn’t sure what to do or how to help. And after the Kavanaugh hearings, she thought it was important to provide resources to survivors. So she decided to use her coding skills to solve the problem, spending four weeks coding non-stop to create ReDawn.


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The primary function is a chatbot named Dawn. Ongele thought it would be natural for people to look for resources in a conversational way. She used used an API that enabled her chatbot with artificial intelligence and web scraped location data from Planned Parenthood’s and RAINN’s websites. She then programmed the app using Swift and integrated the front-end and back-end of the app, which is now available in the App Store.

Users can chat with Dawn and ask questions, search for resources or log incidents and determine who, if anyone, they want to report them to. Although the app isn’t perfect, Ongele says she has her entire life to keep improving it to make it even more useful for survivors, who are already thanking her for her work.

Ongele first started teaching herself to code when she discovered the PRGM button on her graphing calculator. She “did a bit of tinkering” and created a fully functional program to display the lyrics to her favorite song. Amazed that she was able to “make something out of absolutely nothing,”

Ongele began looking for places she could learn more about coding, since her school didn’t offer computer science classes.

She found Kode with Klossy, the coding camp started by supermodel Karlie Kloss to teach teenage girls how to code.

 

 

 

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At the camp, Ongele learned to code with Ruby and create a website using HTML and CSS. Perhaps most importantly, she was in a STEM class entirely made up of young women, which was a first for her. The girls were able to bond over “girl things” and develop “plans for world domination,” without any toxic masculinity around keeping them down.

Ongele recognizes that without women developers, apps like hers might never exist. Diversity in STEM isn’t just about doing the right thing, it’s about creating tools that people need, which only get made by people with different perspectives.

“It’s important to teach girls to code because if a problem is identified by someone who hasn’t been given the resources and skills to tackle it, we lose valuable viewpoints and potential solutions to help underrepresented populations,” said Ongele.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

57 comments

Oladokun B

Bless you. This is so overwhelming.

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Christine V
Christine V2 days ago

Awesome, we need more people in the world like her.

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Martha P
Martha P13 days ago

thanks

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Anna S
Barbara S15 days ago

Thanks for posting

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Olivia H
Olivia H16 days ago

Thank you

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Vincent T
William T19 days ago

very good

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Olga N

TY. This is fantastic.

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Alice L
Alice L27 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson29 days ago

Thank you.

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Louise A
Lara Aabout a month ago

thanks for posting

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