Phone app 'I've Been Violated' helps sexual assault victims

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - An app is in testing right now that would help tackle the problem of sexual assaults on campus.

Valeria Betancourt is a college freshman in Chicago, and she has heard a lot about sexual assault even before classes have started.

“They made us do an online seminar,” Betancourt said. “Like what it is to be sexually assaulted, what are the best responses.”

Michael Lissack spends his days trying to make things safer for students like Betancourt. Lissack is the Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence - or "ISCE".

The non-profit group creates apps designed to address the concept of "sexual consent" on college campuses. Their latest app is called "I’ve Been Violated". It lets sexual assault victims record audio and video about what happened.

“You’ve got a video and you've got something that you made within a few minutes or a few hours…it shows your state of mind, it shows your physical condition,” Lissack said.

The victim's testimony is encrypted, and can only be unlocked by law enforcement. Lissack says an estimated 85-percent of sexual assaults victims never come forward, and when they do, their credibility is questioned. This app, he says, helps survivors through the process of recounting events step-by-step.

“That is an incredibly powerful piece of evidence,” Lissack said. “And if you're not going to go to the authorities right away so they record that kind of evidence, you can record that evidence. It gives you the power.”

“I think it's well-intentioned, but I’m not sure it will accomplish what it set out to accomplish,” said Sharmili Majmudar of Rape Victim Advocates.

Majmudar says the issue of credibility is much more complex, because of the way trauma impacts the brain.

“It may mean that the victim is remembering things at different points in time after they were assaulted,” she said. “So this one point in time recording is not necessarily going to ensure that they have some sort of iron clad evidence.”

Right now, the app is being tested on college campuses, including one in Chicago. Lissack won't say where because of privacy issues.

Betancourt sees the value.

“I’ve known people who have been raped and who unfortunately have had many close calls and speaking to someone else about something like this, like, they don't know how to,” she said.

The director of the Rape Victim Advocates center also has concerns about keeping that information on an app. Still, she is quick to point out that any new tech solutions geared toward increasing safety will raise awareness and start conversations about the issue.

Safety Apps

Questions to ask about tech solutions

Technology and safety related to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking

Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline: 888.293.2080, rapevictimadvocates.org

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