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"Wonder Woman" joins U.S., Israel and Google in call for high-tech fight against domestic violence

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United Nations — "Wonder Woman" herself called the global fight against domestic violence "a battle between life and death." Actress Gal Gadot, who portrayed the heroine in the 2017 remake of the comic book classic, joined the U.S. and Israeli United Nations delegations and tech giant Google on Wednesday to tout new weapons in that battle.

At a digital event linked to the U.N. forum on women, Gadot and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield both stressed the urgency of domestic violence, which has risen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting was entitled: "Terror at Home: Fighting Domestic Violence with Innovation and Technology."   

Thomas-Greenfield quoted a recent World Health Organization report that "found that one in every three women will experience physical and sexual violence in her lifetime."

If you are a survivor or victim in the U.S. and it is an emergency, dial 911. Other resources include: The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or text LOVEIS to 22522.  

The ambassador called the problem "devastatingly pervasive," and said it was "time to bring gender-based violence out of the shadows, out of the dark, out of the walls where people hide."

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The U.S. envoy noted that on International Women's Day last week, President Joe Biden established the White House Gender Policy Council, calling gender-based violence a top priority of the entire Biden-Harris administration."

Technology vs. violence

"There's no vaccine for the shadow pandemic of gender-based violence. But with you as partners, we may just find an equivalent technology that can prevent gender-based violence and provide a proactive solution to the shadow pandemic," Thomas-Greenfield said at the event.

Jacquelline Fuller, president of the tech firm's charitable arm, announced a $300,000 grant to another of the co-sponsors, the Michal Sela Forum, an Israeli organization named after a young social worker who was murdered by her husband.  

Fuller said the grant would fund a project called "Nothing about us without us," to create an "end-to-end tech empowerment program for survivors of all types of domestic violence."  

The U.S. and Israeli delegations also touted mobile apps introduced last year at an Israeli hackathon sponsored by the Michal Sela Foundation, which creators say can help reduce domestic violence by giving victims quick and, more importantly, quiet access to a network of supporters without having to call authorities. The idea is to provide tools for women who may be monitored closely by their abusers to access help with just a couple clicks, sometimes via apps that can be easily concealed on devices.

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"Domestic violence is a despicable and horrifying phenomenon and eliminating it from our homes and societies must be a priority for all of us," Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. and U.S., Gilad Erdan, told the forum. "If combating domestic violence was a priority for U.N. member states, they would modify and apply existing technologies to fight against it." 

"Technology can be a threat, but it can also be part of the solution," the European Union's Ambassador to the U.N, Olof Skoog, said. "We have heard today inspiring examples of how technology can come to the rescue of survivors." 

"This issue touches people of every nationality, ethnicity and economic background," said Eric Goldstein, CEO of the UJA-Jewish Federation of New York, which also co-sponsored the event on Wednesday. "We're here to lay bare what is often hidden and to create a path forward for our people who feel they have no way out."  

Wonder Woman's call to arms

"This event today is so essential," said Gadot, the U.N.'s former honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls. "It is time for a global forum like the United Nations to become involved in such an essential fight, a battle between life and death."   

Gal Gadot attends the Wonder Woman U.N. Ambassador Ceremony at United Nations Headquarters on October 21, 2016, in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

"This has been a tough and challenging year for everyone. COVID-19 has kept us at home, our children out of school, and left many people struggling financially," she said. "All these factors have combined to make the already disturbing phenomenon of domestic violence increasingly worse."

Pointing back to the event's technological theme, Gadot said it was "time to update the tools that we already have in use to prevent domestic violence." 

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