Deploying Bots to Thwart Trafficking and Domestic Violence

Portrait photo of UC Davis alumna Raquelmarie Clark
Raquelmarie Clark

If  you buy a pair of shoes online, you’ll be bombarded by companies wanting to sell you shoes. What if the algorithms that target purchasing priorities could be used for a greater good?

That’s just what Raquelmarie Clark (B.A., communication, ’18) looked into for her undergraduate research project, “Algorithmic Governance: Worrisome or Wonderful?” Clark has since founded We Always Help Each Other (WAHEO), a nonprofit that supports organizations serving victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault.

“We look to using this technology and user data in ways to improve efficiency and reach of local and international aid,” said Clark, who is a sexual crisis counselor for Community Violence Solutions in the San Francisco Bay Area. “The same type of data already collected [by consumer algorithms] could be used as guidance on who needs what services, in which areas, and the best medium to offer services through.”

For example, she said, an organization providing services to survivors of sexual assault or sex trafficking had collected demographic information, but didn’t analyze it for patterns. When analyzed, the data shows what ages, areas, and ethnics groups are most affected, and that information can then be used in deploying resources.

“We found that 67% of clients that identified as LGBTQ, and had previously attempted to access support services, did not follow through because of how they were treated by the agency’s partners from law enforcement and medical staff where the sexual assault exam was conducted,” Clark said. “This information guided the increase in quantity, and revision of content, in the collaborative training seminars.”

Jeffrey Day, content strategist for the UC Davis College of Letters and Science, wrote this story for the fall 2019 issue of the College of Letters and Science Magazine