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Virginia woman says this iPhone feature saved her from a sexual assault

Posted at 8:11 AM, Dec 31, 2019

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A woman who wanted to remain anonymous says a friendly stranger attacked her and tried to assault her sexually, but she says the Emergency SOS feature on her iPhone helped save her life.

It was early Sunday around 2 a.m., and the woman was about to get into her Uber to go home.

"This guy came up to me and said, 'I lost my phone... can you help me find my phone?'" she said.

It turns out the stranger's request for help was simply bait.

"I wasn't suspecting he was bad. He was a very normal, nice-looking guy," the woman said.

She says the man lured her back to the boardwalk to find a lost phone, and she just wanted to help.

"I was like, 'Where are your friends? Why are you alone?' He was like, 'I'm in the military. I'm not from here,' and my brother is in the military—I felt bad for him," the woman said.

It was a believable story from someone who didn't appear threatening.

He eventually told the woman that he might have lost it in the sand. She let him use the "Find My iPhone" app on her phone, but it wasn't working. She got a terrible feeling when she realized he didn't know how to navigate her iPhone to use the app.

"I get my phone back, and I turn around, and I try to run away, and he just comes up from behind me, tackles me, grabs my face, is covering my mouth," she said.

At one point, the perpetrator said he had a knife.

"I'm trying to scream for help, [he] tackles me to the ground - is like shoving my face to the ground - and now, because I've been screaming, he's holding my mouth even tighter trying to muffle any noise I'm making," the woman said.

In the middle of the attack, she was able to make a life-saving call without her attacker knowing.

She used her iPhone's Emergency SOS feature. To activate the SOS feature, she held down her phone's power and volume button down at the same time. Users can also tap the power button five times.

Luckily, the woman was prepared. The Emergency SOS feature only works if an iPhone user has activated the feature in "settings" first.

The woman's iPhone automatically dialed 911 — dispatch was on the line listening and sent police to her location.

"He looked up, and the headlights from police were shining from the sand, and he just took off and ran down the beach," she said. "The police ran after him, and they were able to get him in a foot pursuit."

The nightmare was over.

"I'm so thankful for those police officers," the woman said. "I know they have a thankless job, and I just can't thank them enough."

She says police caught her attacker and it's all because of the simple safety feature on her phone.

"They were originally going to look in the hotels and dispatch updated them that I was talking about the water — I'm begging him not to drown, I don't want to drown — so they knew to come look in the sand," she said.

Now, she just wants to warn others and help them be more prepared.

"All the cards lined up for me, but I know that doesn't always happen and people aren't so lucky," she said. "And if there's anything we can do to be proactive, we should do it."

This story was originally published by Kofo Lasaki on WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia.