Project SAFE launched Reach Out, a new anonymous smartphone resource guide for the Occidental community, April 23. The app connects advocates and sexual assault victims with on and off-campus resources. Reach Out covers advocacy support, medical care, hotlines, reporting options, prevention and education.
Occidental’s Title IX Office had been attempting to create their own app for several years but their technological unfamiliarity prevented them from doing so, according to Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones. When Capptivation, a company devoted to promoting safe college campus environments for all students, reached out to the Title IX Office soon after their launch during the summer of 2016, the office quickly got on board.
“The company pre-populates the app with an overwhelming number of resources from Santa Monica to Pomona, so Project SAFE sifted through these lists to identify the most relevant ones for the Occidental community,” Dana Michels, program coordinator and education prevention specialist at Project SAFE, said.
Capptivation, founded by a group of three college graduates who came together around a vision of creating a safer college environment for students around the nation, created Reach Out in 2014. Founders Racquel Giner, Jack Zandi and Billy Sadik-Khan saw an opportunity to create a technologically innovative guide for students dealing with mishandlings of sexual assault on college campuses. Giner, who graduated from Binghamton University, serves as the chief on-site programmer, while Zandi, who graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, and Sadik-Khan, who graduated from Middlebury College, manage data maintenance for the app.
“Given the fact that we’re all 2014 college graduates, we offer a unique perspective on the issue because we can relate to students that are currently in college,” Giner said. “We’ve always tried to design Reach Out with student’s best interests in mind by meeting students where they’re at — with technology in the palm of their hands in order to empower them with easily accessible information about such an important topic.”
In September 2014, the topic of campus sexual assault gained traction in the media with California’s implementation of the “yes means yes” policy. Capptivation founders were influenced by the statistic that one in four college women could expect to be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. They wanted to help students who have experienced some form of sexual misconduct and are confused or unsure about where to turn in the aftermath of sexual violence.
The Capptivation team started their research by reviewing schools’ websites to see how they had organized their information regarding resources for sexual assault victims.
“We were finding consistently that important information was scattered and hidden in hard to find places, such as annual security reports, codes of conduct and student handbooks,” Giner said. “Once we identified that all this information should be compacted and simplified into an easy to use and easy to understand platform, we started creating a wireframe of it.”
The Title IX Office and Project SAFE hope that the app will provide student victims and advocates with access to the resources they offer. Both offices intend to receive student feedback through Reach Out’s suggestions section in order to make changes to the app best suited to Occidental’s needs.
“Its primary objective now is to provide information, so in a sense, we haven’t changed anything. If you want to reach out and file a formal complaint or just talk with someone to find out what your options are, that would typically be handled by the Title IX Office or a survivor advocate, but they have exact information on how to contact us on the app,” Jones said.
Rebecca Reese (senior), a program assistant for Project SAFE, encourages students to take the time to download the app and familiarize themselves with the resources available.
“I think that the best thing we can do for the community is to provide as many resources in as many different ways as possible,” Reese said. “This app is another way for survivors and allies to seek support and get the information they need. If this app helps even just one student get support when they wouldn’t have otherwise, then it’s already helping our community.”