Developing a web-based platform to support domestic violence survivors

Shai Dinnar

Shai Dinnar

Shai Dinnar ’20 and her team were among the winners in the MIT COVID-19 Challenge hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April. Her team developed a web-based platform called Distance Domestic Violence that connects individuals impacted by domestic violence with local community-based services.  

“I wanted to do something to help during COVID-19 because the number of people who are vulnerable and needing assistance is overwhelming,” Dinnar, a neuroscience major and business minor, says.

About 1,500 contestants participated in the two-day virtual hackathon April 3-5. Dinnar’s was among the winning teams in the “Beat the Pandemic” event.

“During times when many feel helpless, this 48-hour virtual hackathon pushed 1,500 amazing minds to take action,” Dinnar said.

“Our project, Distance Domestic Violence, tackles one of the greatest issues of staying in quarantine: Women who feel unsafe at home due to domestic violence must now stay with their abuser with no escape. Now more than ever, with an increase in numbers and cases, providing assistance is necessary. Working alongside an incredible team, we built a web-based platform to  assess the domestic violence situation and offer connections to local resources.”

Distance Domestic Violence features a tool that screens users and connects them with healthcare providers and shelters. When existing reporting centers are overburdened by COVID-19, the platform gathers critical data about the scope of domestic violence cases.

Dinnar has been a long-time participant in hackathons at Brandeis, Harvard, MIT and Boston University.

“There is this stigma that hackathons are purely for programmers and computer scientists,” Dinnar says. “But in actuality they’re more about ‘makers’ and ‘doers’ combining expertise from many different domains and disciplines. Working in a team, and contributing to a solution, gives me a huge sense of agency.”

She credits the Brandeis innovation ecosystem with significantly influencing her Brandeis experience. With its mission of technology and innovation for social good, she says, the Hassenfeld Family Innovation Center has been a vital supporter of her student entrepreneurship.  

“I want to encourage students to utilize Brandeis competitions, funding and mentorship, and to act as proud representatives of Brandeis in collaborations with other universities in the Boston area and beyond.”

Distance Domestic Violence is expected to be available later this year, she says.

Categories: Business, Student Life

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