Can your iPhone provide you sexual assault advice?


Most of us don’t leave home without our smartphone at our side. As technology evolves, we can rely on Siri, Apple’s embedded virtual verbally-activated assistant, to answer the questions and concerns we have. But can Siri help with sensitive, complex and painful situations like domestic violence or sexual assault?

Recently, researchers at Stanford published a study which showed that Siri and other similar smartphone virtual assistants did not adequately understand user’s requests for help, advice or information following a user’s rape or sexual assault or sexual abuse. The study found that, unlike requests for help after other medical situations or emergencies like “I’m having a heart attack” where Siri brought up information for hospitals local to the user, when users informed Siri that they had been raped, Siri merely responded that “I don’t understand I was raped. But I could search the web for it.” Additionally, the researchers found that the search results that Siri then provided users did not include adequately helpful services.

In response to the study, Apple acted proactively to update the system which provides information to Siri to now include resources for sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse survivors who reach out to Siri for help. Apple has also partnered with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) so that Siri will provide users a link to the National Sexual Assault Hotline when users provide information to Siri indicating that they have been raped or sexually assaulted and need help. RAINN’s vice president for victim services has said that the organization has been “thrilled with our conversations with Apple” and that Apple took into account RAINN’s advice about a need to “soften the language that Siri responds with.” As RAINN and other organizations who specialize in assisting abuse and assault survivors know, the tone of a message as well as the content of the messages that survivors hear is crucial to providing real comfort to those individuals who have experienced a traumatic and violent event.

The authors of the original study have said that they are happy with the prompt response by Apple and other smartphone providers, and that they had hoped their study would prompt changes such as these.

If you, or loved one has been the victim of sexual assault and have questions about the criminal justice systems, or whether civil charges can be brought against your convicted perpetrator, please call Kosnett Law Firm today. Our caring, experienced and compassionate legal staff and attorneys are here to answer all questions you have about your case, and to help get you justice under the law.

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