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As years of a harrowing court case concluded with her attacker being sentenced to prison, the survivor of a rape attempt has told how she used the iPhone emergency SOS to get help.
Apple's emergency SOS feature debuted in the Apple Watch in 2016, before coming to the iPhone with 2017's iOS 11. It's been credited with saving a snowboarder from a crevasse, and now Virginia resident Kelli Worst has revealed how she used it to escape a rape attack.
"This is something that will always be with me, but I do feel like a survivor now more than a victim," she told the local WAVY News 10.
After midnight on December 19, 2019, following an evening out with friends, Worst was approached by Najee Bullock as she went to get into a Lyft car. Claiming he was from the military, and that he needed help because he'd lost his phone, he persuaded her to help him look for it.
"He said he was in the military and not from here, and I just immediately thought of my brother, who's in the military," continued Worst. "I figured he probably has to report somewhere in the morning."
"He's going to be in trouble if he doesn't get there," she said. "I just felt bad for him and wanted to help him, and honestly when he told me he was in the military I felt a sense of safety."
Worst asked the Lyft driver to wait while the pair searched, but it's not clear now whether he or she did. She tried calling it, but it didn't ring, and when she tried to put the number into Find My, it was showing as invalid.
Assuming she was entering the wrong number, she handed Bullock her phone and asked him to enter it. "And that's when I finally got a bad feeling," said Worst, "because he was holding my phone and his hand had swiped off the app, and he had no idea how to navigate an iPhone."
Worse, Bullock then began making sexual gestures toward her. She took her phone back and tried to leave.
"I turned around and walked away and probably got about 5 steps away from him and that's when he came up to me and covered my mouth and nose and tackled me to the ground and had me pinned face down in the sand," she continued.
She screamed, and Bullock pinned her down harder, but she had her iPhone.
"I still had my phone in my right hand," she said, "so I activated the SOS feature by holding the side button and the power button and then swiping across, so from that point on 911 was able to hear everything that was going on."
"He told me that he had a knife," says Worst. "He said, 'I don't want to have to use it. I just want to assault you. Just let me masturbate, and I'll let you go.' At that point, I honestly thought I could die out here."
Police later said that the iPhone's location details would have sent them to a nearby hotel on Virginia Beach Oceanfront. But as the 911 dispatcher was listening, Worst said things such as telling Bullock she didn't want to move closer to the ocean — helping the police find her.
"My phone in my hand and knowing how to activate the SOS feature is what saved my life," said Worst.
Aftermath of the attack
She escaped the rape attempt and she escaped with her life because of her quick thinking under extreme duress, but that was December 2019. Despite the arrest, and Worst's original reporting of using the emergency SOS feature, it wasn't until December 2021 that Bullock pleaded guilty.
"I have learned and know now that the only reason for an assault is the assaulter," Worst told WAVY News 10 after Bullock was sentenced. "It was not my fault. I didn't ask for that to happen to me. Nobody asks for that to happen."
"It's taken a while to come to those realizations myself," she continued. "I think it's important for victims to seek therapy."
"I've gone through extensive therapy and have learned to see those moments that I did do well," said Worst, "because initially you just want to blame yourself."
Bullock has been sentenced to 30 years, with 15 years suspended.
"Justice was finally served, as long as it took, but I had to be there at a lot of hearings," says Worst. "I had to testify against him at the preliminary trial. I did have to do some difficult things."
"I hope that telling my story inspire other victims to tell their story, whether its to a therapist, to someone," she continues. "It helps to share, because initially it feels like this secret burden, like you're ashamed."
To activate the emergency SOS feature on an iPhone 8 or later, Apple recommends that you press and hold both the side button and one of the volume buttons. Then when the Emergency SOS slider appears on screen, swipe across it.
If you're unable to swipe the Emergency SOS slider, there is a countdown on screen. Keep holding down the buttons until that ends, and the iPhone will automatically call emergency services.
However, Apple has a different recommendation for the iPhone 7 or earlier, which is simpler — and appears to still work even on later iPhones. Rapidly press the side button five times to get the Emergency SOS slider.