By: Elena LeVan, MCASA Legislative Policy Intern
College students are not alone in their desire for safety, but the reality is that many do experience fear for their personal safety on a daily basis. In 2016, The Michigan Daily surveyed college undergraduates and found that about 73% of respondents were afraid to walk home alone on their college campus. While colleges often provide blue light emergency phones and other tools for student protection, many students are unaware of these resources or apprehensive to use them. A new technological tool that may be especially helpful in creating a sense of security is the UASK DMV app created by Men Can Stop Rape.
Men Can Stop Rape is a D.C. based organization that works to “creat[e] cultures free from violence.” Specifically, they engage men in preventing violence against women through trainings, public engagement, conversations about healthy masculinity, and an A.S.K. (Assault, Services, Knowledge) project that connects survivors with support services and resources. These resources were originally compiled in 2012 with an app called “UASK DC”, which was recently updated to “UASK DMV” in October 2018 to include universities in Maryland and Northern Virginia. The app now serves eleven universities in total, including Bowie State University and the University of Maryland, College Park.
There are three main features of the UASK DMV app that would prove especially helpful to college students.
1. GPS Location
According to the Federal Communications Commission tracking the precise location of a 911 caller can be difficult, which can affect the response time of emergency services. USK DMV addresses that problem with its “Call 911” button on the app’s home page. Selecting this button sends police the user’s precise GPS location, shortening response times.
2. Emergency Messaging System
The app’s messaging system allows users to preset notification and emergency messages. Notification messages are generally less urgent, whereas emergency messages are designed to be a cry for help, and alert contacts that action should be taken. If selected, a message will be sent to all preset emergency contacts, and if it is set as an emergency message, location information will be included.
Users are provided with a list of resources and information including how and where to get medical help, reporting options, and both on- and off-campus resources, all of which are specific to the university selected.Each office or service is listed with a website, phone number, and description about what it can provide.Especially at large universities, it can be difficult to get clear answers about who to talk to and where to go when it comes to issues related to sexual assault, which is one of the reasons this app is such an asset.
At the October launch event, hosted at the University of Maryland, College Park, Executive Director Neil Irvin spoke to students and faculty about how this app will prevent sexual assault, provide survivors with resources, and in the long-term, will help create a culture where sexual assault is always considered unacceptable.
This app is free for download on Apple or Android.