Can technology help prevent sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses?

The White House is hoping so.

They’ve launched a challenge in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services and Vice President Joe Biden encouraging developers to create a smartphone app that will help prevent sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses. Acknowledging the high rates of sexual assault among young college-aged women in particular, (nineteen percent of women report experiencing sexual assault while in college), the “Apps Against Abuse” challenge is meant to result in an app that will “offer individuals a way to connect with trusted friends in real-time to prevent abuse or violence from occurring.”

I think this is generally a good idea, and I’m glad to see the White House acknowledging how rampant problems of sexual assault and violence are among young women, and particularly in a campus setting. I’m also heartened to see that the app explicitly mentions the role of “bystanders” and social networks in helping to prevent assault. ” Everyone has a role to play in the prevention of violence and abuse, and while no one can do everything, everyone can do something” the website reads.

Obviously, the White House isn’t the first to think about using apps to prevent sexual assault.

You’ll remember that Hollaback developed an app to document and combat street harassment; for 99 cents, the app automatically maps your location and then Hollaback will respond to you soliciting more information about the incident. It can also be used to communicate with the police, and made public so that women can plan safer commutes.

But I still think there’s a value in the White House explicitly pointing to the power of social networks and technology to help combat violence and assault, without relying on law enforcement only (who have a problematic history at best dealing with these issues).

Hollaback! Apps to the Rescue

Wikileaks 101: Media Roundup, and Technology that Truly Empowers

Helping Sexual Assault Victims Online

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman started blogging with Feministing in 2008, and now runs partnerships and strategy as a co-Executive Director. She is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Women Deliver, where she promotes meaningful youth engagement in international development efforts, including through running the award-winning Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Lori was formerly the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and has also worked at the United Nations Foundation on the Secretary-General's flagship Every Woman Every Child initiative, and at the International Women’s Health Coalition and Human Rights Watch. As a leading voice on women’s rights issues, Lori frequently consults, speaks and publishes on feminism, activism and movement-building. A graduate of Harvard University, Lori has been named to The Root 100 list of the most influential African Americans in the United States, and to Forbes Magazine‘s list of the “30 Under 30” successful mediamakers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation