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How does technology play a role in sexual violence?

By Samantha Heyrich, student-athlete at Bryn Mawr College and resident of Pennsylvania
and Ali Safran,  who runs Surviving in Numbers, and is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College

Technology permeates all aspects of our daily lives. Many of us have smart phones with us at all times, but might not realize they can be used for assistance after an assault.  There are many resources, including various mobile apps, which can help a survivor after they’ve experienced violence, or allow someone to discreetly reach out to friends if they feel they are in danger.

Vice President Joseph Biden teamed up with former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in 2011 to launch “Apps Against Abuse,” a nationwide challenge to create apps that would aid in the prevention of sexual violence amongst college aged students.  This initiative inspired many young people to harness their creativity and propel the sexual violence prevention movement into the 21st century. From this program, apps such as Circle of 6 and On Watch were born. Both of these apps utilize GPS information/ Geotracking and have the capability to send this information to a selected group of people. These apps were the first of many to come, though many apps are fairly specific and can only reach a small demographic.

Today, there are college-specific apps, like Loyola University Chicago’s “ Here for You” to Robin McGraw’s “Aspire News” which looks like a news app but provides information on sexual violence, how to get help and can send a SOS message.  Over the past 3 years, apps that specialize in sexual violence have made great improvement and are another tool to have in case a situation ever arises.

Aside from mobile apps, the internet is home to a variety of other sexual violence prevention and awareness resources. PCAR, for example, provides a list of rape crisis centers located in Pennsylvania. is another great resource that provides information for hotlines and has a quick escape feature. Additional resources include RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) informative website.

As technology continues to advance and become more widespread, the variety of resources available for survivors of sexual violence will continue to improve.  These apps mainly provide support to survivors, which is much-needed and hard to find. Despite the vast array of hotlines and counseling services that exist, many survivors may feel too ashamed, scared or fearful to identify themselves and reach out for help. Apps provide a safer route, since they can be used more privately on-the-go.