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Feb 15, 2016 5:00 EST

Rape Crisis Counseling App: Help people around the world learn how to support survivors of rape and sexual assault.

iCrowdNewswire - Feb 15, 2016

Rape Crisis Counseling App

Help people around the world learn how to support survivors of rape and sexual assault.

Worldwide, one in five women will be raped in her lifetime. That’s over 700 million women and girls.

There’s a global epidemic of sexual violence with women at the frontlines.

When They Seek Medical Care, Rape Survivors often Lack Advocates and Support

When rape survivors seek medical care after their assault, most are alone and uninformed about the basic services they require in order to prevent HIV, pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

In many places around the world, medical staff may also be unaware of the specific services that survivors need or they may even be hostile to rape survivors because of cultural attitudes. Even if a survivor is brave enough to show up, she* might not get antibiotics, antiretrovirals or Plan B. Sometimes she* may even be denied care and asked to leave. All of this can increase the risk of a rape survivor developingPTSD, anxiety or depression.

* (We use “she” here, because women are the most common survivors, but it’s important to point out that rape survivors can be any gender and come from any background.)

In some richer countries, rape crisis centers train and organize networks of volunteer rape crisis counselors to accompany and advocate for rape survivors when they come into the emergency room. A growing body of research shows that these services have a significant effect on long-term recovery.

But in most places, the resources to train rape crisis counselors aren’t available. And survivors and their advocates lack access to guidance on how to ensure that a survivor receives the care she needs.

Our Global Coalition of Experts Who Care

I’m Elie Calhoun, a rape crisis counselor, and aid worker and a public health expert at Code Innovation, where we take solutions to problems like this one and digitize them so they can scale.

We’ve worked in Africa and on technology projects for over a decade, connecting people in hard-to-reach environments with education that empowers them to make a difference in their own lives and in their communities.

Now we’re reaching out to bring rape crisis counselor training to everyone who has access to a smartphone. Every year, the affordability of mobile phones and theavailability of data is rising.

We’ve brought rape crisis centers around the U.S., including the Pittsburgh Action against Rape coalition, together with humanitarian, gender-based violence experts, mobile learning specialists, women’s rights defenders and non-profits from around the world to make this happen.

A Rape Crisis Counseling App Available to All

Our Rape Crisis Counseling app will be a mobile version of the training that rape crisis centers provide for their volunteers. This training will be adapted for a range of different health care settings and cultural contexts. It will:

  • Allow anyone, anywhere to train herself as an informal rape crisis counselor who can help rape survivors in her network or community;
  • Be an in-hand resource that helps friends, colleagues and family members know what to do when they accompany a survivor to get medical care;
  • Support a survivor who has to seek medical care on her own  to negotiate asking for and getting the health services she needs;
  • Include resources for LGBTQIA survivors and their advocates, as well information on how to advocate for children and people with disabilities.

We’re betting that smartphones will be in the hands of almost everyone before too long – which means that the resources to begin healing after sexual assault have the potential to reach anyone, anywhere.

Mobile Training Resources for Would-Be Volunteers

All over the world, rape survivors and their communities are responding to the aftermath of sexual violence without access to the full range of information that could help them in their process.

We need to create a real resource that takes the knowledge gained from decades of advocacy at rape crisis centers and put it in the hands of every single person who needs it.

This isn’t counseling, or medical assistance. It’s simple advocacy: information and support for the crucial visit to the hospital where rape survivors get the life-saving care they need to begin recovery.

We’re keeping the app focused only on this important moment, because getting medical care is an early moment when a survivor needs care and support and because the protocol doesn’t change, no matter where in the world a survivor lives.

We hope this resource encourages people to establish rape crisis counselors around the world and that it will help to create a network of healing that extends far beyond the app itself. Our partners in U.S. rape crisis centers are already eager to share their resources and to support volunteers who self-organize and seek to provide more formal services for rape survivors in other countries.

Join Us 

Rape makes even the strongest among us feel powerless, but together we can take a stand so that survivors can access the information they need to take a first step towards healing.

Join us on the journey to create this much-needed resource. We’ll be sending project updates and stories every step of the way.

We have two Stretch Goals that we’d love to see happen if we get more than we’re asking for:

 

1.  $37,500: Intimate Partner Violence Advocacy and Support Module

Intimate partner violence makes up 15% of all reported crime in the U.S. [URL] and domestic violence is a major issue in every country. Often, rape crisis counselors also serve as advocates for survivors of intimate partner violence when they seek medical care, and this component is something we would partner to build out if we raise additional funds.

2.  $62,500: Intimate Partner Violence Advocacy Module & Digital Resources for Extended Survivor Support and Community Advocacy

This section would help survivors locate additional resources for psychological support and services, by walking them through the process of how to identify quality resources and how to reach out for expert support when it is available. (Please note that we would not create a directory of, or a link to services, because we do not have the resources to evaluate and keep this list active.) Advocacy resources would also include how to self-organize a rape survivor support group, a volunteer network or a crisis hotline. The content would be provided by our partner rape crisis centers and adapted by our global coalition.

FAQs

 

1.  Is there a need for a Rape Crisis Counseling app? How can you be sure it will be used?

Elie wrote an article last summer, “Shifting the Silence around Rape and Sexual Assault in Aid Culture,” that sparked emails from rape survivors around the world who identified a need for an advocacy resource that would help them to negotiate receiving appropriate medical care. This is where the idea for digitizing the training program of rape crisis counselors originated.

To validate the idea, we reached out to dozens of rape crisis centers in the US, the global network of women’s rights activists and non-profits at Women Living under Muslim Laws, and support groups for humanitarian aid workers, as well as gender-based violence experts.

All of the rape crisis centers who responded were supportive of the idea of creating a digitized mobile version of rape crisis counselor training and adapting it be be used as stand alone training materials and also as an in-hand resource for survivors and their advocates in health centers.

Over a dozen women’s rights activists and non-profits around the world wrote back to offer to join our coalition and support the project. In addition, many of the aid workers and gender-based violence experts we reached out to also offered their guidance and support for the project.

Over 100 people and groups we reached out to were unanimous in their support of the app as a tool to help survivors, their advocates and would-be volunteers to help facilitate getting rape survivors the medical care they need.

There is not yet an appropriate app of this kind to be found on the App store or the Google Play store. While one resource created for the U.S. military is professionally done, most of the apps in our category are inappropriate and are not optimized by experts for use by rape survivors around the world.

2.  Will this app provide formal certification for rape crisis counselors?

No, it will not. Formal rape crisis counselor certification is available only through accredited rape crisis centers after what is usually a 40-hour in-person training. Our resource is for educational purposes only and does not confer any titles or privileges associated with such titles. Our legal disclaimer and introductory content will make very clear that the app content does not make anyone a certified rape crisis counselor and is to be used for informational purposes and at the user’s full discretion. We hope it will encourage people to seek formal training and to support rape crisis counseling centers. But the app itself is for reference only.

3.  Why make an app and not a mobile-ready website?

Apps work without active data or Internet connectivity, whereas websites do not. In addition, we are creating a mobile learning user interface that helps our different users (survivors, advocates or would-be volunteers) through the content sequentially and that branches into different decision trees as needed. This kind of user experience is better suited to a mobile app.

4.  Will the app offer medical assistance or advice?

No, it will not. Qualified medical personnel at the health center where the survivor is seeking care are the ones to provide medical assistance. The app is focused on offering psychological support and advocacy within the medical system, and it will not contain any medical information aside from a reference to the healthcare protocol for sexual assault. The app is also not diagnostic in any way.

5.  How will the app function in low bandwidth contexts where Internet service is poor?

We will limit the download size by restricting the app content to mostly text and ensure that no Internet or data service is necessary for the app to function. Once the app is downloaded, it will not require connectivity to function.

6.  Will having this app on a smartphone identify someone as a rape survivor? Could its visibility cause problems to the people who have it?

Although it can be used as a tool for survivors and their advocates, the app is primarily a training resource for volunteer rape crisis counselors in their communities. It’s title and visual identity will be training-focused for volunteers and not cue or identify the user as a rape survivor.

7.  How will people who don’t own a smartphone be able to access the content?

We are creating a mobile resource for people with access to smartphones because the number of smartphone users around the world is rapidly increasing as the cost of handsets and mobile connectivity drops. While mobile penetration will never reach 100% of the global population, smartphone owners are influencers in their communities.

We faced a similar challenge when Code created our “About Ebola” mobile app in early 2014 and it was downloaded over 12,000 times, mostly by users in West Africa. While not everyone in West Africa had a smartphone, we designed the resource to be used one-to-many, which means that one person with access to the content could use the tool to train or teach others. In this way, the content can still benefit people without their own smartphone.

8.  Could this app be used by predators?

Our app will not collect identifying data from its users, but smartphone use in general carries with it definite risks that are not specific to the app and that need to be carefully considered. For instance, any smartphone can show its location and share sensitive information with predators who have the digital sophistication to access this data. But running our app will not create additional avenues for predators to access vulnerable people.

9.  Rape survivors face different challenges in different contexts. Are you going to make regional versions?

There will be one version of the app that can toggle to different languages. While in the future, we may create regional content if our partners identify the need for this, our initial build will focus on creating a single resource that fits most cultural and health system contexts. This is why our partners’ expertise is so important, because their knowledge of their own cultural issues and health system challenges will help to ensure that the resource is more appropriate for a wide user base, wherever they may be. Naturally, there will be subtle differences in language because of cultural differences in referring to this sort of violence; but the core content will be consistent.

10.  Is there already something like this on the app store?

Dozens of apps already on Google Play and the App Store that present themselves as tools in the fight against sexual violence are inappropriate at best and harmful at worst. Many, you’re meant to download and activate if and when you get raped, pressing a button to alert your friends and family that this is happening to you.

11.  What other languages will you translate the app into?

For now, we have partner organizations willing to translate the content into Arabic, Farsi, French and Spanish, and we would love to include more. If you sign up to support our Ambassador perk, you will support the app to be translated into the language of your choice, which is something we hope will happen!

12. What are the funds being used for?

Here’s our project timeline and a breakdown of our costs.

Timeline

Project Milestone

Cost

April-May 2016

· Adapt and sequence training content from the Pittsburgh Action against Rape coalition and other rape crisis centers that we’re partnering with, along with resources from the U.S. Department of Justice. Adaptation includes creation of appropriate user interface and app design.

$8,500

June 2016

· Group process of editing and review between U.S. rape crisis centers and humanitarian gender-based violence experts and global women’s rights defenders and non-profits to help approve final content.

$2,400

July-August 2016

· Coordinate and test translations (currently Arabic, Farsi, French and Spanish, with organizations committed to using the app in their own work).

· Build and test the app in all supported languages.

$6,800

$3,100

September 2016

· App launch on Android and iOS; marketing and publicity; code base maintenance.

$1,700

Total

 

$22,500

Find This Campaign On
Contact Information:

Elie Calhoun

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