App launches to report sexual assault

by Kaya Yurieff

Matt Scott, co-president of the GW chapter of Men of Strength, displays the application his organization has helped promote with campus-specific support services.
Media Credit: Becky Crowder | Senior Staff Photographer
Matt Scott, co-president of the GW chapter of Men of Strength, displays the application his organization has helped promote with campus-specific support services.

A District organization with ties to GW helped launch a smartphone application this week that allows victims to report sexual assault and seek help in the city or on campus.

Through the app, which went live Sept. 10, victims can dial the police, locate the nearest medical center with rape kits, call support hotlines or request taxi services. It includes contact information for support centers at eight universities, including GW.

Men Can Stop Rape, a national sexual assault prevention group with a branch at GW, worked with the D.C. Office of Victim Services to create the app, which Mayor Vincent Gray will officially launch Friday. Neither the GW Hospital nor Student Health Service has rape kits on hand. The only location citywide to receive a rape kit is cross-town at Washington Hospital Center.

Matt Scott, co-president of the GW chapter of Men of Strength, said he hopes more victims will report abuses if they can easily find contact information for university police or campus offices, like GW’s Student Rights and Responsibilities.

“It’s a lot less intimidating than going to a police department or even a friend, in certain cases,” said Scott. He added, “When you have the personal names and personal touch, it makes it a lot easier to say, ‘Yeah, maybe I will go to Tara [Pereira] and talk to her about what happened,’ ” referring to the University’s point person for sexual assault.

The national group has tallied about 300 iPhone downloads and 60 Android downloads as of Sept. 11, Jared Watkins, development coordinator of Men Can Stop Rape, said. GW’s Men of Strength is working with the Students Against Sexual Assault group to raise awareness of the app through postering and word of mouth. The organization, which launched at GW last year, stresses bystander intervention among college males.

“We created the app, because in the moments after an assault, a survivor – victim – should not have to search and track down information on receiving crisis or follow-up care,” Watkins said. He said the app is not only a resource, but also “a conversation starter” for students in D.C.

Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Director of Campus Inclusion Initiatives Tara Periera said the app falls in line with GW's efforts to amp up awareness of sexual assaults, which she calls one of the nation's most under-reported crimes.

She said the app will be a “concise one-stop shop for answering questions,” adding that it will be most effective in conjunction with GW's prevention campaigns that are still in the works. She said she hopes the app can be "one of the ingredients that makes these resources and services more accessible to students."

In the first two weeks of the semester, three students reported four sexual abuses on or near campus.

One in every six American women, 80 percent of whom are under the age of 30, are victims of rape or attempted rape, according to statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

Kostantinos Skordalos, co-president of Men of Strength, said he hopes more victims will report cases, adding “the societal pressures and stigma are still present.”

“Honestly, my wish is that all members of the GW community, regardless of age, gender identity or sexual orientation, will download this app, not only for themselves, but also as a resource to help their friends.

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