August 19, 2013 By Sarah Rich
A new app launched last week in Washington, D.C., assists victims of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence. Users can report incidents anonymously and find other helpful resources.
The free app, called ASK DC (short for Assault. Services. Knowledge.) is a joint effort between Mayor Vincent Gray’s Office of Victim Services and nonprofit organization Men Can Stop Rape. Once downloaded, users can access 33 assault-response resources including medical, law enforcement, 24-hour support hotlines and more in the D.C. area.
The app is part of a larger, districtwide initiative that includes a website and training materials intended to help raise community awareness about sexual assault and dating violence.
“The ASK DC app is not just for assault victims,” according to a statement from Men Can Stop Rape. “The bystander tools and resources provided can be used by anyone to direct a friend, family member or a colleague who may have experienced sexual assault to the help they need.”
Melissa Hook, director of the Office of Victim Services, said men are also encouraged to download the app in the event they are a bystander in a crime like sexual assault.
Since the app allows victims direct access to medical attention, they can get properly examined before reporting the assault to the police, Hook said. Providing multiple resources through the app connects victims to numerous response and support options, even if they don’t report the assault right away.
“The practical details are sometimes the biggest barriers in the middle of the night when someone’s traumatized,” Hook said.
To reach beyond English speakers, the app offers services in English, Spanish, French, Amharic, American Sign Language, and more than 20 different Asian languages. Legal assistance is available for immigrant victims, and the app connects those visiting from abroad to their home country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S.
But before the app was available across the District of Columbia, a similar app was launched on a smaller scale.
ASK DC was modeled after U ASK DC, which was released last year across Washington D.C.’s college and university campuses, mainly to help women report sexual assault and violence. Hook said D.C.-area colleges were seeing a spike in the number of assaults and needed a more coordinated response.
The mayor’s office reported that prior to the launch of U ASK DC, sexual assaults on campuses had been greatly under-reported. The success of U ASK DC later incentivized the mayor’s office to expand the project districtwide with the launch of ASK DC.
ASK DC can be downloaded for BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices.