CONTENT WARNING: Mentions of domestic abuse, stalking and rape threats.
Police officers in Edinburgh have urged the public to download Hollie Guard, a free personal safety app that protects users from domestic abuse and violent attacks.
Hollie Guard notifies your emergency contacts in times of danger and sends your precise location – as well as audio and video evidence – to their devices.
The app was created by the Hollie Gazzard Trust following the murder of 20-year-old hairdresser Hollie Gazzard in 2014.
Hollie was stabbed 14 times by her ex-boyfriend Asher Maslin, just days after she ended their relationship. She suffered months of “obsession, jealousy and a campaign of harassment” before eventually leaving Maslin and reporting him to the Gloucestershire Police.
Following Hollie’s death, her father Nick Gazzard created Hollie Guard to prevent further incidents of domestic abuse, stalking and fatal attacks.
“[Hollie Guard] was designed with stalking and domestic abuse in mind, but many have activated the app in other day-to-day situations such as walking to/from work or school alone, people who work alone or those who just want extra comfort knowing they have this device to hand,” Nick said.
The app has two modes recommended for use in emergency situations.
Deterrent Mode triggers a high pitched alarm and flashing light to alert people in the surrounding area that you are in danger. The app will also send your GPS location and audio/video evidence to your emergency contacts.
Stealth Mode, on the other hand, allows you to notify your emergency contacts discreetly. This feature is useful in domestic violence cases where raising an alert could aggravate your attacker and potentially increase the risk of harm.
Hollie Guard has four features that can be activated in low-risk situations.
These features allow you to safely plan out your journeys, notify your contacts that you have fallen and/or injured yourself, and report suspicious incidents with photo evidence that is time stamped and tagged with the precise GPS location.
The app also offers a premium safety service for £7.99 a month that provides 24/7 monitoring and direct access to a dedicated emergency response team.
BBC Points West presenter, Alex Lovell, praised the Hollie Guard app for keeping her safe while she was stalked and sent rape threats by 69-year-old Gordon Hawthorn.
Hawthorn was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and issued with an indefinite restraining order. He sent 38 graphic letters to the BBC presenter, in which he referred to himself as “your stalker” and “your soon-to-be rapist”.
An anonymous Hollie Guard user and domestic abuse survivor said the app gave her “an added level of security.”
“I left my partner in 2016 from what was an unhealthy, controlling relationship. I very quickly found myself dealing with harassment and stalking directed at me, as well as close friends and family. Living with this contact and not knowing if, where or how he might present is extremely stressful,” she said.
“I was introduced to the Hollie Guard app by my DARO [Domestic Abuse Risk Officer]. It provides me and my family a safe way to communicate. It’s everything from a panic alarm to a GPS tracker, raising alerts and live recording.”
Domestic abuse cases have risen worldwide during the pandemic.
In Scotland, there were 30,718 domestic abuse cases reported in 2019-20 and a significant increase of calls made to domestic abuse helplines during lockdown. Over 1,000 stalking charges were also reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service during this time.
Hollie Guard is free to download on the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. For more information, visit the Hollie Gazzard Trust.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, reach out for help at:
- The Samaritans 116 123
- National Stalking Helpline 0808 802 0300
- Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline 0800 027 1234
Featured Image Credit: Rebecca Kerr
News Editor at Brig Newspaper
Fourth year Journalism Studies at the University of Stirling
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