Prevention Tuesdays: Sexual Assault Prevention-There’s an App for That??

In Sexual Assault Awareness on November 8, 2011 at 7:52 am

Did you know? 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of a rape or attempted rape during their college career?

After reading staggering statistics such as these, James Medina, an online marketer from California, had the idea to create a smart phone app that would alert friends, family, and other emergency contacts to potentially dangerous situations.  The idea is that the app will be used in situations where the individual has been coerced into a dangerous situation, or a situation that they are unsure of. There are three buttons on the app which may be used:”yellow” alert, if the person needs assistance but is not in danger, “orange alert” if the person is unsure if they will need assistance, and “red alert” if the person needs immediate help. When each of these three buttons is pressed the phone immediately calls, txts, or emails “emergency contacts” (set by the user) and broadcasts audio and even pictures of the persons current situation. The app also sends a GPS location. The idea is that especially on college campuses where friends and allies are usually in close proximity, the emergency contacts will be able to come intervene in a dangerous situation. The app does not alert law enforcement.

I spoke to Medina about the idea behind, and effectiveness of his app. While he could not yet speak to its effectiveness, he says it is still in its early stages and he is welcome to feedback, especially from professionals in the prevention, and/or advocacy industry. He is happy to change things like wording, resources etc. as long as it does not impare the app’s functioning. I noted that he might want to consider more empowering language under some of the alerts and he was more than receptive!

Additionally, the app has a “Resources” function which Medina is also enthusiastic about adding to. Broad referral information such as links to RAINN or other sexual violence crisis hotlines would be ideal here. He doesn’t want to bombard users with too many detailed resources, but pointing in them in the right direction to get help, report, seek treatment, or help others to do the same is the general idea.

The app is currently available in the Apple store, and the basic version is free. While I can not attest to the effectiveness, the question of how technology might be utilized for prevention is an interesting one.

If you would like information on how to contact Medina with suggestions, comments or general feedback please contact prevention@rcasa.org. Or, if you have additional ideas on how technology may aid in prevention I would love to hear them!


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