Restless Is the Social Media Platform Fighting Sexual Assault

“I knew I had to find a way to empower myself again within the circumstances I couldn’t change. I thought that maybe if I couldn’t tell my own story, I could at least facilitate the stories of other women. That maybe I could speak indirectly through them, and feel like I was reclaiming my narrative, even if indirectly.”

Restless Is the Social Media Platform Fighting Sexual Assault
Olivia DeRamus. (runawayluna / Instagram)

In the fall of 2014, a U.S. college student named Olivia DeRamus was sexually assaulted.

Upon reporting her assaulter to the school, he sued her for millions of dollars—a tactic, said DeRamus, “used by the wealthy to silence their victims.” She continued, “It’s extremely effective.”

A 2014 report by PBS found that just 20 percent of sexual assault survivors take the path DeRamus did in reporting the assault. The same study found that one in five survivors fear retaliation from the person who assaulted them if they were to report the event. DeRamus’s case, along with countless others, painfully proves this fear well within reason. 

DeRamus faced a lengthy court battle and costly legal fees before finally being free from the case in 2019. But the end of the exhausting legal battle left DeRamus with a key realization.

“I realized, after a number of years, that the courts would never protect me,” DeRamus told Ms. in an interview last month. She continued:

“I knew I had to find a way to empower myself again within the circumstances I couldn’t change. I thought that maybe if I couldn’t tell my own story, I could at least facilitate the stories of other women. That maybe I could speak indirectly through them, and feel like I was reclaiming my narrative, even if indirectly.”

A little over a year ago, “in a kind of desperate attempt to reclaim [her] power,” DeRamus launched Restless, a social networking and media platform that works to support, empower and educate women.

“Traditional social media apps like Twitter and Facebook are argumentative at best, and vehicles of hate speech at worst,” said DeRamus.

Her concerns over the lack of oversight and subsequent allowance of harmful and often dangerous behaviors, such as sexual harassment, led her to design a platform that had different goals. 

“Restless is designed to make you feel comforted, like it’s a space made just for you, because it is. And if someone asks a question we haven’t already answered, there are thousands of women ready to answer, and that’s what I think is really exciting about what we’re doing. It’s harnessing social media to be kind and do that day to day work that so often is skipped over or not possible on other social media platforms.” 

Restless Is the Social Media Platform Fighting Sexual Assault
(RestlessNetwork.com)

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Restless and DeRamus’s experiences falls within the era of the #MeToo movement and the legislative, cultural and monumental changes that the movement has enacted. But DeRamus’s goal for Restless takes a slightly different path than that of #MeToo.

“The #MeToo movement seems to predominantly exist on social media. And while it’s been a powerful tool to start to create change, I never really saw how getting into a fight with a troll on Twitter or posting a quote on Instagram was directly helping women. It’s not that I don’t think both of those actions have an important place in the scheme of moving the needle, but I’ve always been asking—how can we actually help women’s day to day lives?

“Before Restless Network, there wasn’t a place where you could go to safely ask questions or seek support. And there wasn’t a resource that was answering questions like how to tell your parents you’ve been assaulted, or what to do when you’re friends don’t believe you. There were and are definitely great charities spreading information and aid, but its never been enough, and it’s generally not done in a way that feels approachable and engaging.

“#MeToo is at the heart of everything that we do. But we’re also on a mission to empower women in all aspects of life, focusing on traditionally “taboo” topics like work and money, mental health, and more.”

To date, Restless has published articles online on topics ranging from domestic abuse and voter suppression to the benefits of androgynous sex toys to the reality of Black journalists in white newsrooms.

The Restless app—what DeRamus calls “the future of the company” launched in May of 2020. The app is divided into different sections for women with different experiences and interests, and to be sensitive to different triggers. This choice allows users to see issues and enter the spaces of only the topics they want to engage with. 

Says DeRamus:

“Women can turn to us when they’re going through a break up, unsure what they’re next career move should be, wanting to discuss issues of racial justice, or find solidarity in #metoo issues – any number of things.”

DeRamus told Ms., “It’s always been about figuring out how to create something genuinely helpful for women, in a world that can so often be set against us.”

You can learn more about Restless at restlessnetwork.com or check out their Instagram @RestlessNetwork.

Get caught up on the Ms. 16 Days of Activism collection.

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About

Gavi Klein is a junior at Brandeis University majoring in American Studies with minors in Italian Studies and Journalism. She is a contributor at Ms.