WASHINGTON DC, 16 March 2018 - The first mobile app to address the needs of rape survivors when they go to the emergency room was released today by Code Innovation and the Washington DC Rape Crisis Center, one of the first rape crisis centers to open in the world. Although approximately one in four people experiences the crime of sexual assault, most of us still have no idea how to cope with rape when it happens to us or someone close to us.
“Research shows that after sexual assault, going to the health center to get treatment dramatically improves long-term outcomes for the survivor, especially if an advocate accompanies them through the process,” says Elie Calhoun, a former rape crisis counselor in New York City and Principal at Code Innovation. "We digitized the training that an advocate receives into a free and open-source app. Now we want to make the app into a global public good that’s available in as many languages as possible so that anyone who needs it can access this necessary information.”
Creating a digital resource for survivors of sexual violence is new territory and the Rape Crisis Counseling app was made possible through the expertise of partners at the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC), whose Executive Director Indira Henard championed the app from the project’s early stages in 2015.
“The DC Rape Crisis Center is proud to partner with Code Innovation on this state of the art resource for global rape crisis advocates,” says Henard. “The Rape Crisis Counseling app is not only a game changer for the global community, but it raises the standard of trauma-informed care for survivors of sexual violence. The rollout of this app means that there will be uniformity in the way we treat sexual assault survivors at home and abroad.”
The app contains a Training for Volunteer Advocates and is a basic primer of the information that a US state-certified rape crisis counselor would receive as part of the 40-hour training that is generally required before a counselor can volunteer at hospitals. The original training material was developed by US rape crisis centers based on their experience with decades of emergency room advocacy work and has been adapted by a multicultural coalition of partners to be relevant for global use.
"As a global society, we're getting more comfortable talking about sexual harassment and sexual assault as real issues. But most of us still don't know how to respond when it happens. Now, anyone can use our app to help a survivor – or themselves – get necessary treatment after sexual assault," says Calhoun. “The Rape Crisis Counseling platform shows how easily and cheaply digital technologies can be leveraged to meet gaps in information and access that translate into real life outcomes and systems change.”
“We look forward to piloting the app with organizations working in women’s health and human rights around the world and already have pilots lined up in East Africa and the Middle East,” says Calhoun. “The plan is to get direct feedback during our pilot phase so we can develop and release a 2.0 version in other languages that we know will work all over the world to help rape survivors get adequate and appropriate care.”
The app is being released in English but Code Innovation has plans to scale it into more than a dozen languages with the next round of funding. The project has US non-profit status and a Bitcoin wallet address to help cryptocurrency investors donate some of their bitcoin or other cryptocurrency gains to helping survivors and their advocates in the immediate aftermath of sexual assault.
In the process of digitizing the rape crisis counseling material into a mobile learning platform, Code Innovation drew on the Digital Principles to co-design the app's content with a broad coalition of international stakeholders, including gender-based violence experts, women’s human rights advocates and US-based rape crisis centers.
The Training for Volunteer Advocates section of the app covers basic medical advocacy and includes a treatment overview and details about how to navigate the forensic exam, which is essential for evidence collection that can be used later in court. There are sections on safety planning and working with survivors of intimate partner violence, as well as special considerations, for example, materials for the LGBTQIA community and for survivors of drug-facilitated sexual assault.
Two additional user pathways, an In-Hand Resource for Survivors and an In-Hand Resource for Advocates, provide adapted information for use at health centers.
The community helping to build this resource is aware that many survivors enter health facilities that are not yet equipped to provide them with the appropriate treatments or facilities that cannot adequately collect forensic evidence. Our goal is for the Rape Crisis Counseling app to help generate awareness and demand for better quality services for sexual assault survivors around the world.
The Rape Crisis Counseling app is available on the Apple Store here.
The Rape Crisis Counseling app is available on the Google Play Store here.
For more information, visit rapecrisiscounseling.org
About the DC Rape Crisis Center
The DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating sexual violence and creating a violence-free world through conscience and action. Since its inception in 1972, the DC Rape Crisis Center has been making a significant contribution to the health, economic, social and cultural well-being of Washington, DC. As the oldest and first rape crisis center in the country. The DC Rape Crisis Center provides counseling and mental health services to the most marginalized sexual assault survivors in the District of Columbia; facilitates education to equip children and adults with the tools, and skills needed to establish and maintain healthy relationships. Our call to action obliges us to us to build the capacity of the Washington, DC community to respond to survivors of sexual assault with compassion, and dignity.
About Code Innovation
Code Innovation consults with the private and public sectors on systems strengthening, with a focus on equity. We leverage technology to bring field-proven interventions to scale and our developers span three continents (Africa, Europe and Asia). Code Innovation focuses on programs developed in and for vulnerable populations. We create and consult on free and open-source platforms, instructional design and social innovations that enable communities to lift themselves out of poverty. For more information about our work, visit http://www.codeinnovation.com.
Follow Rape Crisis Counseling on Twitter @crisisadvocacy