5 Apps Fighting Back Against Sexual Assault

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Dozens of colleges are currently in the spotlight for increases in sexual assault claims, causing thousands of students to take a stand nationwide and several colleges to reform policy. Now, technology is fighting back too. These five new smartphone apps offer quick, discreet ways for students to send out an SOS to friends, family, and police during unsafe situations and contribute to sexual-assault prevention.

1. OnWatchOnCampus


A winner of the 2011 White House Apps Against Abuse Challenge, OnWatchOnCampus is equipped with six customizable alerts you can send to friends and family. The “Watch My Back” feature works by setting a passcode-locked timer on your phone. If time runs out before you enter the code, the app will send a message and your GPS location to pre-specified contacts. The “I’m Here” tool lets you send your friends a message and your location to let them know you’ve arrived safely at your destination. There are also buttons that allow you to call campus police, local 911, and pre-selected emergency contacts with just two taps on your phone’s screen.

iOS: $9.99 per year or 99 cents per month
Android: $9.99 per year or 99 cents per month

2. bSafe


No one likes to think about the worst. But if emergency does strike, bSafe can help. Tapping on the app’s SOS button turns your phone into an emergency siren. Once the alarm is triggered, your phone will also begin recording audio and video while broadcasting your location to a chosen group of contacts. Don’t worry about saving the information—your video, voice, location, and timestamps are automatically saved and backed up on the app’s servers. bSafe also provides easy access to your data, in case you need to share it with police.

iOS: Free
Android: Free

3. Circle of 6


One of the first assault-prevention apps marketed toward both men and women, Circle of 6 took first place in the White House Apps Against Abuse Challenge and the Institute of Medicine’s 2012 End Violence @Home Competition. With just four buttons, the app is simple to use: Tap the car icon, and the app will send your preferred contacts a text with your location and a request for a ride home. The phone icon will send your contacts a text letting them know you need an interruption. Touch the chat icon, and the app will text your contacts, letting them know you need advice. The exclamation point button takes you to a list of pre-programmed national hotline numbers and your customizable list of emergency contacts.

iOS: Free
Android: Free

4. LifeLine Response


Traditional 911 operators assume you can communicate during an unsafe situation. LifeLine Response knows that’s not always true. When it’s running, the app converts your phone into a touchscreen-activated alarm. On a short, dark walk home, simply hold your thumb in the center of your phone. The second your finger leaves the screen, the app will turn your phone into a full-on alarm system, equipped with flashing lights, GPS tracking, and a siren that can be heard up to two miles away. Disarming is easy: Just enter the four-digit deactivate code when you arrive safely at your destination.

iOS: Free
Android: Free

5. Here For You


Created by students at Loyola University of Chicago, this app acts as a small phonebook that connects victims of sexual assault to varying support groups around the country. The app organizes support resources into four categories: dating and domestic, sexual assault, stalking and miscellaneous. From there, users have access to help hotlines, counselors, and support group information for both men and women. There’s even a section of articles on how to help a friend or loved one who has recently become a victim of gender-based violence.

iOS: Free