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Government announces anti-rape app contest

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there's an app for that

The Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President, have announced a competition for programmers to create a smartphone app that would help prevent sexual assault. Nearly one in five college-aged women reports being the victim of sexual assault; this app would provide a tool both to women and to "bystanders," friends who see a situation going awry but who often don't know how to intercede. The competition organizers cite a statistic that seventy-five percent of college students say it's important to intervene, but over half say they don’t know how.

The contest offers these parameters for developers:

The application envisioned will offer individuals a way to connect with trusted friends in real-time to prevent abuse or violence from occurring. While the application will serve a social function of helping people stay in touch with their friends, it will also allow friends to keep track of each other’s whereabouts and check in frequently to avoid being isolated in vulnerable circumstances.

I'm not really sure how that differs from SMS in any meaningful way, but I'm sure any winning app would likely expand on these parameters. The real problem, however, is that young women often don't feel empowered to take action in situations where they feel uncomfortable. When your friend seems pretty drunk and that guy she's with seems a little questionable, the right course of action isn't always clear. Young women question their judgment; you don't want to seem "overbearing," especially when you're a freshman in college and you haven't experienced how predatory certain men can be.

I hope this app assists men and women in preventing sexual assault, but education also seems key. College campuses ought to really educate women on what date rape is and how to intervene. Then maybe we wouldn't need an app for that.