City launches new app for sexual assault victims

August 14, 2013

City officials unveiled a new smartphone app Wednesday meant to help victims of sexual assaults in the city find medical help, get counseling and contact police.

The ASK DC app, developed by the city’s Office of Victim Services and the nonprofit group Men Can Stop Rape, is available for iPhone and iPad, Android and BlackBerry. With the swipe of a finger, a user can learn how to get medical attention, get in touch with a victim advocate, speak with a counselor on the phone or via online chat or call police. The app also provides information about the process of reporting a sexual assault and advice on how to best handle the situation.

“We want to make sure people know we are there to support him,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander, who added that he planned to urge his own daughters to download the app.

Wednesday’s unveiling came at a John A. Wilson Building news conference months after questions were raised about the D.C. police department’s handling of sexual assaults in a lengthy report by the nonprofit Human Rights Watch.

A later D.C. Council review raised questions about the group’s sweeping conclusions, and Quander said Wednesday that the report’s allegations had nothing to do with the app or the city’s larger effort to improve sexual assault reporting.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham, who spoke at the Wednesday news conference, said sexual assaults remain “largely underreported” and suggested a significant rise in sexual assaults between 2011 and 2012 was due to better reporting rather than a marked increase in sexual violence.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing when you have an increase in the reporting of sexual assaults,” he said.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · August 14, 2013