Sexual violence is an epidemic on college campuses — approximately one in three women and one in ten men experience nonconsensual sexual contact during these years. The vast majority of these crimes go unreported, and one reason is that many survivors desperately want to put the incident behind them, rather than navigate a confusing, painful legal process. A new app that helps sexual assault survivors on college campuses could be a powerful tool for overwhelmed victims who feel they have nowhere to turn.
The app Reach Out provides survivors with a list of options, including how to preserve evidence and report the crime, and where to find a nearby advocate and medical provider.
The app doesn’t tell users what they should do after an assault — rather, it provides multiple courses of action and how to proceed with each one. One of the pages reads, “There is no ‘right’ way to get help after experiencing a sexual assault.”
This aspect of Reach Out is so important. After having your control taken away during a sexual assault, there’s nothing worse than being told what you must do next, whether you want to or not.
There’s a homepage for each school, so the instructions are specific and accessible for survivors. The app currently includes over 40,000 resources on more than 2,500 campuses.
Although the manner in which colleges and law enforcement handle sexual assaults requires drastic improvement, technology has become an empowering tool for survivors.
The website Callisto, which was launched in 2014, allows survivors to report the details of their assaults online so they don’t have to repeatedly describe the traumatic incident to multiple people.
The Reach Out team has also partnered with local organizations to create a “Reach Out Network” that consists of mobile-friendly websites offering off-campus resources.
Although we have a long way to go before sexual assaults are handled with professionalism, integrity, and compassion, apps like Reach Out and Callisto are an important step in the right direction.