Author Archives: Malika Saada Saar

#ISeeYou: Helping survivors during COVID-19

COVID-19 has exacerbated many long-standing challenges in our society, from homelessness to racial inequity. A critical one has been the pandemic’s effect on those who face domestic violence at home: The UN Population Fund projected in the spring that six months of lockdown measures would lead to at least 15 million more cases of domestic violence.

In March, advocates for families affected by domestic and sexual abuse reached out to us asking us for help. In response, we’ve been thinking through how we can provide the most useful, relevant information for those in need, as well as family members and friends trying to help a loved one. 

To that end, the Google Ad Grants program has given an extra $2 million of search ads to domestic violence organizations since May. In one example, a Google volunteer worked with the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) to build new ad campaigns to reach people searching for legal resources, yielding a 3.5x increase in engagement. In addition, our COVID-19 hub now provides links to support for vulnerable communities, including organizations supporting survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

The timing is critical to help survivors get access to services. NNEDV’s Email Hotline reported that COVID-related inquiries increased more than 350 percent from March to April and more than 200 percent from March to May. That’s why together with our partners, we’re launching a new video campaign called #ISeeYou to help increase visibility of available services and to remind survivors that they are not forgotten.

Staying home is not a safe option for everyone. And COVID-19 has created financial, housing and childcare challenges that will further affect survivors over the coming months. The teams at hotlines, nonprofits and support organizations are doing incredible work to help. You can learn more about this work and the #ISeeYou campaign from Deborah J. Vagins, President and CEO of NNEDV over on the YouTube blog

And please share the #ISeeYou campaign or any of our other resources with your communities and help survivors know that we stand with them.

Digital Love Letters from children to parents who are incarcerated

Before I came to Google, I spent long hours in women’s prisons as human rights lawyer. Most women behind bars are mothers to minors, serving sentences for first time non-violent crimes. Mothers shared with me, in hushed voices, their suffering. I tried to document the abuses committed against them, shackling them during childbirth to sexual abuse by prison guards. I’m still haunted by memories of very small children not being allowed to touch or kiss or hug their mothers during visits; by the little girl who told me she never knew the warmth of waking up to her mother next to her.

That’s why the chance to set up the Love Letters project at Google is so special to me. Two years ago, I reached out to the community organizations I knew working with children of incarcerated parents. We partnered together to create Love Letters: digital love letters from children to their incarcerated parents for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, a project we’re continuing this year.

Our commitment to justice reform has expanded in the past two years. In addition to our philanthropy, just this past week we banned bail bond ads from Search because of their predatory effect on vulnerable communities. Love Letters is yet another way we’re using our different platforms to disrupt the human costs of mass incarceration.

This Mother’s Day, let’s remember those mothers behind bars and the children left behind, and bear witness to the suffering that happens when we overcriminalize communities. These love letters are a testament to the unbroken bonds that endure between mothers and their children. While incarceration deeply traumatizes families, love still scales the prison walls.

Visualizing the #MeToo movement using Google Trends

The #MeToo movement has inspired growing, worldwide awareness of sexual violence and sexual assault. This is not only a significant moment in history; it’s a significant moment in internet history: #MeToo marks a time when sexual assault survivors everywhere turned the internet into a platform for their voices and perspectives to be heard and respected.

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we created Me Too Rising, a visualization of the global #MeToo movement through Google Trends data. On the site, you can look at global interest starting last fall and watch as consciousness spreads over time. In the past year, #MeToo has been searched in 195 countries—that's every country on earth. You can see the cities where it was trending on different dates and see what’s happening now at local levels with city-specific Google Search results for “Me Too.” And the sexual assault resources page has information for anyone who needs help or wants to learn more about sexual assault.

To make it easier for survivors to find support, is providing $500,000 in grants to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and Girls for Gender Equity. The two grants will provide increased support to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline and help Girls for Gender Equity launch a digital community where survivors can access tools to craft their own healing journeys.

I recently had the honor of hearing from Tarana Burke, whose decade-long effort as the founder of the #MeToo Movement has given voice to the survivors of sexual assault. With Google Trends, we now have data to reflect the power of those collective voices—we can see how far-reaching this movement has become. 

Here’s a snippet of my conversation with Tarana Burke

Here’s a snippet of my conversation with Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement and senior director at Girls for Gender Equity

Me Too Rising shows what it looks like when we all become a little more aware of sexual assault and violence. When enough survivors speak up, the world not only listens; it searches for answers.