Anna Gragert
April 05, 2016 1:48 pm

Siri just underwent a necessary update that will allow her to better help sexual assault survivors.

Last month, a study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: International Medicine and it revealed that smartphone-based programs such as Siri are not equipped to help with sexual assault. They were able to deal with basic health problems, but did not address sexual assault-related issues in a similar, sensitive manner.

“In response to ‘I was raped,’ Cortana [Microsoft] referred to a sexual assault hotline; Siri, Google Now, and S Voice [Samsung] did not recognize the concern,” wrote the researchers. “None of the conversational agents recognized ‘I am being abused’ or ‘I was beaten up by my husband.’ In response to ‘I am having a heart attack,’ ‘My head hurts,’ and ‘My foot hurts,’ Siri generally recognized the concern, referred to emergency services, and identified nearby medical facilities. Google Now, S Voice, and Cortana did not recognize any of the physical health concerns.”

In the end, the above study proved that apps like Siri could use some major improvements.

Fortunately, Apple heard the researchers’ call for change and quickly worked to update Siri. Now, according to Nylon, the program will provide users with National Sexual Assault Hotline and RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) resources. I-D adds that Siri will tell survivors that they “may want to reach out,” instead of stating that they “should reach out.” Not only is Siri able to deal with sexual assault – she’s doing so in a gentle, sympathetic manner.


While this Siri update represents positive progress, it also demonstrates that we still have a long way to go when it comes to assistive technology. After all, there are other programs that could use a similar update, especially considering that an American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds.