Sexual Assault? There's an App for That

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by Chelsea Reinhard

Jun 13, 2014

A new app was introduced at the Junell Center at ASU Thursday. (LIVE! Photo/Chelsea Schmid)
A new app was introduced at the Junell Center at ASU Thursday. (LIVE! Photo/Chelsea Schmid)
Dr. Javier Flores addresses a group gathered to learn about the Texas Safety University app Thursday. (LIVE! Photo/Chelsea Schmid)
Dr. Javier Flores addresses a group gathered to learn about the Texas Safety University app Thursday. (LIVE! Photo/Chelsea Schmid)
Detective Mark West of the ASU Police Department speaks about sexual assault on campus. (LIVE! Photo/Chelsea Schmid)
Detective Mark West of the ASU Police Department speaks about sexual assault on campus. (LIVE! Photo/Chelsea Schmid)
TX Safety U app menu.
TX Safety U app menu.
TX Safety U app crime statistics screen.
TX Safety U app crime statistics screen.
TX Safety U app contact information page.
TX Safety U app contact information page.
TX Safety U app resources page.
TX Safety U app resources page.
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In Brief: 
  • TAASA unveiled a new app on Thursday at ASU to provide info on resources for sexual assault victims
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes
  • TAASA, teachers and officials hope the app will encourage victims to seek help

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) has introduced a new smartphone app targeted at university students across the state that strives to connect students to sexual assault resources and crime statistics on 174 Texas universities.

The app, TX Safety U (Texas Safety University), includes a tab to select one of 174 Texas universities to receive information on resources in that area. Once the university has been selected, users may navigate four tabs filled with contact information for emergency and crisis centers; local and national statistics on weapon, drug, alcohol, property and violent crimes; fact pages on topics such as stalking, hazing, mental health and substance abuse; as well as a Facebook updates link that opens to TAASA’s page.

Rosa Luna, Director of Communications at TAASA, said the app is about a year old and came about after TAASA’s executive director utilized information on a different app at a conference.

On the heels of the Obama Administration’s recent launch of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, Luna highlighted sexual assault statistics and the need to have a platform available to those who fall victim.

“The reality is in Texas that one in five women and one in 20 men will fall victim to sexual assault at some point in their lifetime,” she said. “We also know that 80 percent of those…will not report to law enforcement. We also know that 82 percent of those will be assaulted by someone that they know or that they trust.”

One of the complexities of violence on university campuses is that victims may be continually exposed to their perpetrators, explained Rae Wilson, Clinical Instructor in ASU’s social work program. They’re seeing them in class, dormitories, cafeterias and school functions, she said, a likely contributor to the fact that over 70 percent of all college students that fall victim to sexual assault discontinue their studies.

Lavoyche Phelps, a Social Work major at ASU, says she personally knows ASU students who have been sexually assaulted and explains some of the difficulties her friends experienced.

“The ones that I know, it was their junior year [when the assault happened],” Phelps said. “It was very traumatic for them. They didn’t want to talk about it, they didn’t want to get services, they just wanted it to go away. They were embarrassed, shameful, all of those things.

Phelps said that her friends were aware of the resources when they were confronted with violence, but due to her studies, knows there are many that do not. ASU Director of Counseling Services Cleve Pool reiterated Phelps’ point, citing research over the past four to five years to support his argument.

“A lot of the research is showing that the most vulnerable time for female college students was the first month,” Pool said. “We see this app as a really important tool for us, because most of our students, when they arrive on campus, they’re not going to be aware of what resources are available locally. This is an app that’s going to provide that information to them at their fingertips…”

Rae Wilson, who brought her class of juniors and seniors to the press conference Thursday to learn about the app, said experience with violence on campus over the years has definitely demonstrated a need for awareness and access to resources.

“Because kind of ‘my thing’ is domestic violence and violence against women, I very often—at least once or twice a semester—get a student who comes to me who has been a victim of sexual violence and wants to know what to do,” Wilson said.

“I think, personally, it would be immensely helpful if after I were attacked I could go to my dorm room or my apartment or just sit in my car and click on an app within 30 seconds and just be talking to someone or have a number to call…instead of waiting until my teacher has office hours.”

Referencing the follow-on symptoms of not seeking help after sexual abuse, Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Karla Payne emphasized awareness as paramount to victims seeking help, stating that people are more likely to use those resources if they know they’re available.

“When people hold in emotions—especially traumatic experiences—a lot of time that turns into depression or anxiety. We see a lot of PTSD in victims of sexual assault. It can also turn into anger and all sorts of things. Some people also will turn to substances to try to numb the pain or try to forget it.”

With the prevalence of smartphones worldwide and the heavy use of apps, social media and the internet among the college-aged crowd, the idea of a resource-packed seems logical in helping inform and raise awareness of the issues.

On Wednesday, students received an introduction to the app in the classroom, however despite it’s attractiveness, Phelps says she remains a bit skeptical on just how effective it will be.

“We had a presenter come yesterday and I asked some questions about the app,” Phelps began. “What happens if your phone has a glitch or you’re somewhere you can’t get service? Then what? And yet they’re too afraid to go in person to the campus police or to the student affairs that handles those matters. Then what happens?”

Phelps attributed part of her skepticism to the nature of the app, stating that most students she knows prefer to play games on their phones but don’t pay much attention to other apps on the market. She would, however like to learn more and believes awareness is half the battle.

“I think it’s very important [for people to know about the resources],” she said. “If you’re not educated about how to get help, then you’re not going to get it and you’re going to have that bitterness [because] something traumatic happened to you and you didn’t know where to go.  You didn’t know there was that help out there available to you. There’s grants, there’s programs out there that let you know you can come to us for help, you just have to have access to us.”

The TX Safety U app is available both for iOS and Android platforms and is free of charge. For more information on TAASA, visit their website here. For more information on the Rape Crisis Center, visit their website here

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