Siri now understands questions about sexual assault

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Thursday, March 31, 2016
FILE - Apple's Phil Schiller talks about Siri with the new Apple iPhone 4S during an announcement at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An Apple upgrade is connecting victims of sexual assault with help. Siri now understands the phrases "I was raped" or "I am being abused."

In response, Siri now puts iPhone users one click away from the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Apple came out with the upgrade just three days after a study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed several smartphone assistants -- including Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana and Samsung's S Voice -- often responded poorly to health and safety emergencies, like sexual assault, heart attacks or depression.

Apple partnered with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) to help craft Siri's new response.

"We have been thrilled with our conversations with Apple," Jennifer Marsh, RAINN's Vice President for Victim Services, told ABC News. "We both agreed that this would be an ongoing process and collaboration."

Marsh said RAINN provided Apple with analytics from RAINN's website in addition to common language that callers use on the hotline when first disclosing that they have been sexually abused.

"One of the tweaks we made was softening the language that Siri responds with," Marsh said. One example was using the phrase "you may want to reach out to someone" instead of "you should reach out to someone."

Prior to this change, Siri's response was "I don't know what you mean by 'I was raped.' How about a Web search for it?"

Microsoft's Cortana provided the National Sexual Assault Hotline in response to "I was raped." However, in response to "I am being abused," Cortana responded, "Are you now?"

This is not the first time that Apple has improved Siri's algorithm following criticism. In 2013, Apple first worked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to better respond to suicidal statements. Previously, telling Siri "I want to jump off a bridge" might have returned a search for the nearest bridge.

ABC News contributed to this report.