In Bulgaria since the beginning of 2021, fifteen women have lost their lives murdered by a man close to them. It is a grim and striking statistic, and unfortunately, these were not some isolated cases. The last couple of years marked an unprecedented increase in the number of domestic violence instances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only two months after the national lockdown came into force in March 2020, the signals for domestic violence reached 80 in a day.
To help women protect themselves from domestic abuse, a Bulgarian team developed a chatbot working via the Viber app. The Silna (Strong) chatbot is an idea of Andrian Georgiev, the co-founder of the Future Perfect Foundation which has a mission to support arts and human rights organizations with digital services.
The chatbot allows women, who have been victims of domestic violence, to get informed about their rights, to find out what steps they should take next, and where to look for emergency medical care. Financed with funds from the “Social innovations” program of Sofia municipality, the bot can be found in the Viber search on both Android and iOS, as well as on desktop.
Besides the Silna chatbot, Georgiev’s foundation is working on releasing another chatbot focused on preventing school bullying. For this project, the Future Perfect Foundation is working together with UNICEF, while the Silna bot for domestic violence is done with the support of a Bulgarian NGO which contributes to the project by providing specialized content.
The one-stop solution for preventing instances of domestic violence
According to Georgiev, many instances of domestic violence are not reported to public bodies. The ones that do get reported are often reported at a later stage when women start feeling a tangible risk for their lives. That is why the Silna chatbot aims to help women protect themselves before their situation escalates and they have to seek help from the national emergency hotlines.
“Our goal is to add a digital layer on top of the already existing infrastructure of Bulgarian NGOs which don’t have enough funds to reach and help more people, and that is why we created a tool that would allow local organizations to accomplish their mission and help women in need,” Georgiev shares.
In essence, when users interact with the bot, the process is guided by a specific scenario and they can choose between a couple of options. These include reading an article and informational materials, filling in quizzes for an assessment of the risk of domestic violence. Just like the hotlines, the chatbot works 24/7 which means that women in risky situations do not need to do any additional research to find out how to legally proceed, where to find crisis centers, and so on.
Viber chatbot vs an app?
Georgiev highlights the value of using the infrastructure of existing apps which are already being used by the majority of your target audience. “When you ask someone to download an app, they are not very likely to do that unless your app has something to do with banking. On the other hand, when you partner with a tech company with which shares the same vision and values, this allows you to focus on the impact you want to create,” Georgiev shares.
Only a couple of weeks after the launch of the chatbot, its users already outnumber 535.