The power to combat sexual assault is in your hands — literally.
A new app, Reach Out - College Edition, is providing students across the country with the resources needed to effectively respond to sexual assaults on their campuses. The app includes a personalized page for each university, including information about confidential support services, medical care and legal action on or near campus.
Zach Csillag, 24, a graduate of Elon University, said he and three friends developed the idea for the app shortly after graduating from college in 2014. While discussing campus safety and sexual assault one night, Csillag and his friends — Jack Zandi, 24; Bill Sadik-Khan, 24; and Racquel Giner, 24 —
realized there was a critical gap in student awareness.
The partners decided to design an extensive and user-friendly app to empower students by educating them about the importance of Title IX and available resources. Though many students receive some sexual assault training in college, many disregard the information or soon forget it, Csillag said.
He and his partners decided sexual assault resources needed to be more flexible for students. With an app, students can access the information on their own terms. The accessibility makes the information less intimidating for many students, he said.
Once the initial idea was developed, the partners began researching Title IX policies and visited roughly 20 colleges and universities to present their ideas to students. The results were overwhelmingly positive, he said.
It took nearly 18 months to ensure the app served students well and provided the most extensive information possible, Csillag said. The app first launched in June, and is partnered with 97 universities in 36 states.
The more the app develops, the more passionate the partners become, Csillag said.
“Over time it’s developed into a labor of love and something we’re really passionate about,” Csillag said. “It’s satisfying to be able to be on this journey and to be creating something that we hope will make a difference.”
The app includes a number of features, most notably a ‘start here’ function that provides students with step-by-step procedures for responding to a sexual assault. Options include information on preserving evidence, getting medical attention and contacting trained advocates.
Having response information consolidated in one place can help ease some of the survivor’s stress, Csillag said. Even if a survivor isn’t ready to report the crime, having the knowledge when and if they are ready is crucial.
Though sections of the app are tailored specifically to sexual assault survivors, its use extends far beyond that, Csillag said. The app is just as important for administrators, who can use it to connect with the needs of their students.
Csillag said the administrators they’ve met during this project are passionate about finding the best methods to reach their students. Using back end software, the app will allow administrators to easily edit the app’s categories and provide the most up-to-date information for students, he said.
Another important feature is the prevention and education function, which takes users to a page with information on sexual health, sexual assault facts and bystander intervention strategies. Changing campus culture is just as important as responding to assaults, Csillag said.
“Eventually, it’d be great if the app didn’t need to be used for support,” he said. “If it became used primarily as an education tool, that would mean we’re doing a good job at changing the culture.”