Imagine an app that can be used in federal and state court cases as a legal tool to permanently safeguard and store real-time accounts of domestic abuse.
Now, that’s now a reality, thanks to the makers of the VictimsVoice app, a “digital diary” that allows domestic violence victims and survivors — as well as individuals who are victims of discrimination and harassment — to record incidents of their abuse as it happens.
Sheri Kurdakul, Princeton-based CEO and founder of VictimsVoice, said she endured years of domestic violence that began during her childhood. The sales and marketing pro had her sights on moving forward from her past — but it was her daughter’s science fair project would spark an idea on how she could help other victims of domestic violence.
“In 2016, my daughter built an anti-bullying app for her science fair project. It never occurred to me that you could use technology to solve problems like this,” Kurdakul said. “Domestic violence is a space that people just don’t talk about. The #MeToo movement has encouraged a lot of people to have conversations around workplace harassment or sexual assault, but very rarely were the conversations centered around domestic violence.”
VictimsVoice, which launched last month in the Google Play store and as a web app, allows users to keep a record of abuse and harassment as it happens. Users answer a series of opened-ended questions — including the details of what happened during the incident, the type of abuse, whether multiple victims were involved, etc. — which then get encrypted and permanently stored onto the app’s servers. Although users aren’t able to add any audio or video of their abuse, they can upload photos and information about rape kits and/or physical exams.
“This is not a ‘he-said-she-said’ app. It’s about supporting victims in long-term abusive situations,” Kurdakul said. “It’s a tool meant for documenting a long-term series of things that are happening. We’re capturing all of the information that can later be corroborated in a court of law.”
Users don’t have access to the information once their entries are recorded to ensure the information has not been altered or tampered with, but they do have control over who can access their digital diary. The app’s system, Kurdakul said, is designed to be in compliance with the strict legal standards of court admissibility, otherwise known as the Daubert Standard. Users can designate a recipient of the records, which can be a legal entity or a power of attorney. Those designees are granted a one-time-use pass to download the information.
“Most people don’t report what’s happened to them in fear of retaliation, fear of not being believed or not being able to remember the details of their abuse,” Kurdakul said. “This app can help victims feel confident about coming forward in a safe way.”
While developing the app, Kurdakul, who works out of the 1776 coworking space at the Cherry Hill Mall, participated in online training program Founder Gym and frequented Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs events. A solo founder before adding CTO and cofounder Charles Gattsek in January, she ran a “small” friends and family round to get the app up and running.
Kurdakul also enlisted a team of staffers — aka the VictimsVoice Justice League — with backgrounds in business strategy, accounting and legal research, as well as an advisory board made up of a Morris Township Police Department lieutenant, a legal advocate and the founder of Startup Grind’s Princeton chapter.
In order to use the app, users must purchase an annual license for $39.95 or access the license through VictimVoice’s Partner Program. The program provides the tool to law enforcement agencies, attorneys, nonprofit organizations and crisis shelters that work directly with domestic violence and abuse victims.-30-