college date rape apps
Photos by Candice Reed

With the busy fall semester of Dixie State University in St. George underway, college students might want to take notes in regards to the fact that, according to clinical psychologist David Lisak, 100,000 women will be sexually assaulted on college campuses across the United States this year.

Southern Utah is no exception.

A friend of mine in California was excited to share with me that her daughter is a freshman at Dixie State in St. George. Since I used to live nearby, she thought I would be interested in her Mormon daughter’s leaving-the-nest story. When she told me that she felt confident that her daughter would be safer in Utah than anywhere else because—well, Mormons—I gave her the facts.

According to the Utah Department of Health, 64 of every 100,000 Utah women have suffered a rape. The national average is 57 women out of 100,000. Many of them will be attacked during their time as a college student, and the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that 95 percent of U.S. campus date rapes go unreported.

college date rape appsI informed her that Tinder is a thing even in Utah and that hook-up culture is alive and well in the Beehive State. Even though college students in Utah consume far less alcohol than the national average, it’s still the number one date rape drug. Utah has both prescription and non-prescription drug abuse issues just like the rest of the country. Furthermore, incoming freshman like her daughter are particularly vulnerable according to the Justice Department. Sexual assault can and does happen on almost every college campus.

There is no College of the Celestial Kingdom.

She was stunned and a little irritated at me for bringing this to light, but the next time I saw her, she brought up the college date rape issue and almost shouted, “There’s an app for that!”

Seriously?

I looked it up and found some interesting anti-sexual-assault apps. I’m not sure how effective they would be when roofied, but I was fascinated by how technology might help with such a serious issue as date rape.

The Circle of Six is a free app designed for college students and was one of the winners of the Apps Against Abuse challenge issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. Circle of Six asks you to select up to six people “you can count on to have your back” and comes with three different alerts to send out to your circle if you feel threatened.

Guardly is another free app that with “one-tap quickly connects you with up to 15 safety contacts by conference call and/or private instant messaging.” It also can connect with campus police.

The bSafe app allows you to choose as many or as few emergency contacts as you want and literally has all the bells and whistles when you touch a button, setting off sirens and  automatically recording video and voice.

While these ideas are all good, I’m thinking that the downside to these apps is that you could accidentally butt-dial your mom when you’re at the grocery store, and the next thing you know, the cops have the place surrounded.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but I think that education and being proactive in regards to safety might be the best weapons against campus rape. The National Institute of Justice reported that self-protection actions—such as weaponless attacking, running, hiding, getting help, or struggling—seem to decrease the risk of rape completion by 80 percent.

In regards to educating young people, some who have never been away from home, federal regulations issued last year will require colleges to provide students with ongoing prevention and awareness programs related to dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Dixie State provides this education to its employees and students, and a DOVE Center victim advocate is now on campus every Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Women’s Resource Center as well as their 24-hour crisis hotline: (435) 628-0458.

My friend’s daughter recently started her college classes, and yes, her mother installed an app on her phone and made her promise to check in daily, swear she wouldn’t drink, and always go out with a group of friends.

I sympathized with my friend and told her not to worry about her daughter—that she was a good girl, St. George is a safe town, and nothing would ever happen—but I’m even worried. I wonder if there’s an app for that?

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