Students Develop New Apps That Could Drastically 'Innovate Against Rape'

Another opportunity for bystanders to step in.

As many as 25 percent of college students experience a form of sexual assault before graduation — often while consuming alcohol. Though 9 out of 10 of those victims know their attacker, only a handful of attacks actually get reported.

The Integrated Innovation Institute students from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Carnegie Mellon University — who hail from engineering, business and design backgrounds and are supposed to complete projects with "a social purpose" — wanted to change that. Their solution? A project called "Innovation Against Rape" that will empower fellow students, and potential bystanders, to step in before or during an act of sexual assault.

"Finding solutions to on-campus sexual assaults is as complicated as the issue itself and education-focused efforts need to be amplified with action-based solutions," Institute Co-Director Eric Anderson, an associate professor in the School of Design and associate dean of the College of Fine Arts, said in a press release. "Those emerging from among the affected demographic may hold the most promise to engage peers and resolve the situation."

So the students developed two prototype apps to help their college peers, who, according to anti-sexual assault organization RAINN, are more likely to experience rape than any other age group, do just that.

The first: "SPOT a Problem."

"SPOT a Problem" is an app and bracelet combo that would allow party hosts or members of Greek life to become alerted of something fishy happening. Bystanders with the downloaded app could anonymously report an incident, causing the bracelet of the party host or risk management fraternity brother to light up.

But the app isn't limited to Greeks. In the below spot video, student and SPOT developer Connie Chun explains that their prototype can extend to non-college places of drinking. 

"This can be adapted outside college campuses to other environments like bars, clubs and concert venues where there's an established staff and security," she said.

If you're wondering about how students who aren't at organized events can protect themselves and their friends, the CMU students developed a preventative app for them, too. It's called the NightOwl.

According to the press release, "NightOwl is a social (peer-to-peer) mobile application that provides users with an anonymous way to report dangerous situations at social events."

If an attendee sees another person in a potential dangerous or aggressive situation, they can send an anonymous original or pre-written message to the host or other guests at the party to step in and take action. 

The White House unveiled their "It's On Us" campaign last September, also stressing bystanders to step in to prevent sexual assaults from occurring. Like the White House, these apps tap into the fact that bystanders can and do affect the chances of a sexual assault happening

Though outside help is only a temporary solution to the prevalent problem of campus rape, the Carnegie Mellon Students (now app developers) are hopeful they can make a difference.

"No single entity can solve this issue," Peter Boatwright, a co-director of the Institute, and the Carnegie Bosch Professor of Marketing at the Tepper School of Business, said in the press release. 

"But the combined efforts and skill sets of nonprofits, businesses, academic institutions, activists, social organizations and others can help end sexual assault by addressing it from all angles." 

Where can we sign up?