Combating on-campus sexual assault with your smart phone


The Circle of Six smartphone app enables users to reach out to friends if they fear they might be assaulted.

While the White House, lawmakers and university administrators debate the best methods to reduce the threat of sexual assault on college campuses, NPR reports smartphones might be a useful tool in the campaign for campus safety.

Developers are working to create new mobile apps that “offer quick ways for college students facing unsafe or uncomfortable situations to reach out to their peers, connect with resources on campus and in their communities, or notify law enforcement.”

One app students can turn to is Circle of 6. When a student is out late at night and has lost track of their peers, they can use the app to send a “come and get me” message to the six individuals in their circles with a map to show their exact location. Additionally, if someone is on a date and starts to feel uncomfortable, he or she can use the app to send an alert to his or her circle members prompting them to call and interrupt.

Another feature allows users to access “a wealth of online information about healthy relationships,” according to the website. Finally, in the most critical situations, individuals can also use the app to call two pre-programmed national hotlines or a local emergency number.

One campus safety tool, called Callisto, is still in development. According to NPR, Callisto is a college sexual assault reporting system designed to encourage survivors to report their assaults.

According to the website, “students will be able to record an account of what happened, get advice on what evidence to collect and save, and store this record and any images online.” They can also choose to send the report either to their schools or to the police. Additionally, if students choose to send a report to the university, they can do so anonymously with “information that they think would help the school prevent future assaults.” After filling out a report, a survivor may not decide to take immediate action. If that’s the case, Callisto allows users to save the report with a timestamp so they can decide later on if they want to take any action.

This story and PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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