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Mobile App Could Help Prevent Sexual Assault in NH

A new uSafeNH app will be available this fall to students at all 26 New Hampshire colleges and universities, offering guidance if they are victims of sexual assault. (M. Clifford)
A new uSafeNH app will be available this fall to students at all 26 New Hampshire colleges and universities, offering guidance if they are victims of sexual assault. (M. Clifford)
August 15, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. — In New Hampshire and around the country, one-in-five women will be sexually assaulted during her college career, according to local prevention advocates. A new mobile app will be available this fall to help women on all college campuses across the state.

Students spend a lot of their time on mobile devices, said Sharyn Potter, executive director of research at the Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. That's how they came up with the idea to provide an app - called "uSafeNH” - to guide victims of domestic violence and assault to local resources.

"The way that this app came about was, a former State Trooper said to us, 'There are such incredible resources for sexual assault survivors in the state, but it's really hard to get them into the hands of a distressed 19- or 20-year-old,’” Potter said.

The University teamed up with the Attorney General's Office and the New Hampshire Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence. The project was funded by a $25,000 grant from the Entrepreneurial Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

Britta Ekdahl, a graduate student in Social Work and project manager for “uSafeNH," said the research team got feedback from students and social workers about the kinds of apps students would likely use and the kinds of information they thought would be valuable to victims and their allies.

"Pretty much all students are aware that it's a problem;” Ekdahl said. “A lot of them weren't aware, really, of where they could go or how they would respond, if it was a friend or anything like that. So, they had really supportive and positive feedback about bringing this resource to their campus."

According to Potter, the app will address key issues for students, including what constitutes consent to a sexual act.

"Ninety-five percent of victims of sexual assault do not disclose,” Potter said. "When these victims don't have help, it makes it harder to heal and to process, and to move forward."

The app is expected to be ready this fall for students at all 26 local colleges and universities.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH