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How Two Survivors Are Reinventing Personal Safety

by Quinn Fitzgerald and Sara Dickhaus de Zárraga


We started out as classmates and friends. We spent hours in our business school cafeteria and dorms discussing some of the world’s most difficult problems as we were exploring what to do with the rest of our lives. Most frequently, we found ourselves talking about women’s issues, sexual violence, and assault. Being back on a college campus brought back far too many memories of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable during our undergrad experiences. This was before #metoo, but specific cases of sexual assault and the lack of punishment for perpetrators were still making headlines every day. Through these conversations, we realized we had something else in common.


We both have had experience with sexual assault. It is personal for us and we know far too well the impact it can have on peoples’ lives. Unfortunately, our experiences are not unique at all. When we started talking with our friends and family more openly about this issue, we realized just how common our stories were. Everyone knows the staggering statistics —

1 in 4 women in the US experience sexual assault or attempted assault while in college — but it is another thing entirely to hear the same stories over and over again from the people you care about the most.

And the stories we heard were more like ours than we anticipated. They didn’t take place in a dark alley or have someone jumping out of the shadows. That is a misconception and a stereotype. Instead, they almost always happened with someone the person knew in a familiar place, in the gray zone — where expectations are often misaligned, communication breaks down, unequal power dynamics (formal or informal) are blown out of proportion, and you can feel trapped or forced to do something you don’t want to do.

What We Learned About The Personal Safety Industry

We felt like the personal safety industry had missed the mark entirely; safety devices were made for the stereotypes and black and white emergencies, but not for the situations we experienced and were hearing about every day. Not for the situations where you are not sure of the other person’s intent, where the gray zone seems endless, and where waiting to have certainty of someone’s bad intent means taking action too late. Not for the situations where telling the other person, you feel unsafe could jeopardize your job or alienate you socially. Not for the situations where telling the other person you feel unsafe would make you even more unsafe.

Safety devices like pepper spray, brass knuckles, and alarms were not made to fit into our lives. Instead, they are constant reminders of our vulnerability. They look terrible, make us feel bad, and are difficult to operate — which means we promptly put them in the junk drawer. On top of that, these devices are one size fits all — one solution for every situation and every person. But safety is not one size fits all, everyone has different needs in-the-moment and every situation is a bit different.

Why Flare Is Different

For a long time, the personal safety industry has made assumptions based on stereotypes about what unsafe situations are and feel like. We knew those stereotypes did not represent how we experience safety, so, instead of making those assumptions, we went out and talked to more people. We didn’t know if the solutions that would have worked for us, would work for anyone else. We partnered with local non-profits in Boston who do amazing work on sexual violence and assault. We listened, collected real stories, sought input, analyzed data, and tested features.

It turns out our original idea was not great, but through this feedback-rich process and with open-minds and open-hearts, we were able to iterate and build something truly special. Something built not just by us and our team, but by thousands of people, by real experiences, and by deep data-centric research.

Safety has traditionally been about vulnerability and fear. But that is not what it means to us. At Flare, we believe that safety means agency — it means having the freedom and independence to be who you are. It is about feeling confident, putting yourself out there, going after your goals, and not holding back. It means being savvy and curious, having confidence, standing in unity, showing empathy, and embracing your passions. Those are our values at Flare and have been our driving force in creating this product.

We provide practical solutions built from experience, not stereotypes. They’re not prescriptive or one size fits all, instead, we focus on providing you with options — so you can choose what is right for you in the moment. It’s about trusting your gut when something doesn’t feel right and having the confidence to act earlier in the moment with fewer consequences.

We believe in a world where you don’t have to make so many compromises for your safety. We believe in being brave, not perfect.

With those guiding principles and your feedback, we built the Flare bracelet, our first product.

We Want to Hear From You

Flare was started by asking questions and not accepting things as they were. We want you to do the same. Reach out to us at Become a Founding Member of Flare with us, and help us make better safety solutions. We are really looking forward to hearing from you.

- Quinn & Sara


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