College students victimized by sexual assault on campuses across the District can now get help by touching the screens of their smart phones. A new mobile application offers direct links to school security, D.C. police and round-the-clock online chats with counselors.
The app — a joint venture between the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Victim Services and a group called Men Can Stop Rape — essentially puts phone numbers and resources from eight universities in one place.
Officials are scheduled to formally announce the project at a news conference Friday at the University of the District of Columbia. The application has been available for two weeks as a free download from iTunes, and more than 250 people have loaded it to their devices.
“It’s a comprehensive resource where people can find all the information they need,” said Rachel Friedman, deputy director of Men Can Stop Rape. “Sexual assault on college campuses is a huge issue across the nation, and the D.C. mayor’s office is really being a leader in addressing this very troubling issue.”
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said in a statement that “for the first time, life-saving assault response resources from all District universities and 19 community organizations have been united in an all-in-one tool for college students.”
The application is dubbed “U Ask DC,” an acronym for University; Assault; Services; Knowledge. Thus far, it has been promoted at rape crisis centers and on campuses.
Alan Etter, vice president of university relations for the University of the District of Columbia, called the app “absolutely necessary,” and said he hoped it would be adopted elsewhere.
“Our first responsibility is to our students and to making sure they are safe,” Etter said. The school’s president, Allen L. Sessoms, is scheduled to be one of the speakers at Friday’s announcement.
The app offers advice and access to emergency numbers that can be dialed with a single touch. There are directions to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, as well as numbers for taxis. Other screens describe what an exam will be like and warn victims not to shower before seeking help, to preserve evidence.
There also is a list of all eight universities, with numbers and e-mail links to security and counselors. The statement announcing the mayor’s news conference cites statistics that say nearly half of college women who date have reported experiencing violence or abusive behavior, yet less than 5 percent call the police.