This app could help prevent sexual assault cases for students

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While waiting for a SNAP van in the back of the Reitz Union late at night, University of Florida senior Preya Patel has her phone on her at all times. Holding her phone reassures her, knowing that she can reach her friends at any time to call for help.

“I’m definitely aware of situations where I can be ripped off,” Patel said.

Patel frequently uses SNAP, which is the UF student nighttime auxiliary patrol that drives students free from 6:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. She lets her friends know where she is and where she is going so that there is a second eye on her, even if they are not physically there.

Many students share the same sentiments as Patel, and the latest app from UF’s Office of Accessibility and Gender Equity, USafeUS, tries to reassure them. Launched on campus in August, it already has over 900 users who have activated the app and used its features.

USafeUS has features like the ability to fake a call or text from someone on your contact list without ever notifying them, automatically texting three friends to follow you up if you don’t arrive on time , sharing location with contacts on your phone with user permission and giving drink recipes to the angels, which is an SOS disguised as a drink recipe to tell bartenders or waiters that you need to. aid. The app also contains local resources on sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking, as well as resources with options and post-incident care.

This resource is not limited to UF students only, but also to the large community of Gainesville. If you have a smart device, you’ll be able to access local and national resources at your fingertips from the app.

“We know people need to access this kind of information,” said Jessica Baker, engagement and prevention coordinator at UF’s Office of Accessibility and Gender Equity. , an office committed to ensuring equal access to resources and promoting diversity and inclusion for all.

“It is very, very relevant that people who have experienced sexual violence have access to resources as early as possible. If we can put it on people’s phones, that’s even better. The only requirement to download the app and get its resources is to have a phone.

Jessica Baker began her post at UF’s Office of Accessibility and Gender Equity at the start of the pandemic and has since worked to provide more resources for students and
community. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Baker)

When Baker started her post at the start of the pandemic, she spent her first six months training and researching national experts on evidence-based models to prevent gender-based violence, discrimination and harassment. on university campuses.

She came across the Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, which is dedicated to ending sexual and relationship violence and stalking through vigorous research. They received a grant in 2016 to create the USafeUS app, which builds on the centre’s decade of prevention research.

Towards the end of 2020, Baker reached out to the developers of the app and added resources that could be used for UF students and residents of Gainesville.

According to the 2021 annual security report of the UF Police Department, there was a sharp increase in cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence in 2019, with a slight decrease in 2020.

With 2019 statistics in mind, UF conducted a campus-wide survey in 2019 to assess student experiences and perspectives on sexual assault and misconduct on campus. The study found that 45% of UF students experienced at least one type of bullying.

In response, the university developed more on-campus resources and hired Baker, who is also involved with the Coalition Against Sexual Violence in Gainesville and oversees the Student Advisory Council on Gender Equity – a panel of 17 students who focus on policy and prevention education efforts across UF campus.

Baker and the Student Gender Equity Advisory Council continue to improve USafeUS, alongside the developers of the app, to provide the best possible user experience.

“If you have a friend, family member or child, you know your child will be well equipped with the really useful information. There are local resources, community resources and national resources to help people make better decisions and protect themselves, ”said Baker.


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