COLLEGE PARK — Representatives from Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR), a local nonprofit organization, joined student leaders, sexual assault prevention experts, law enforcement officials and administrators from area colleges to launch the expansion of a unique mobile app fashioned to equip students throughout the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) metropolitan region with a range of resources targeted to reduce sexual violence.
Neil Irvin, the executive director of MCSR, coordinated and led the function announcing the launch of UASK DMV – a smartphone application regarded as next-generation technology standing for University, Ask, Services and Knowledge, (UASK) coupled with the DMV.
Irvin, along with a team of colleagues and partners, originally developed what was called the “UASK DC” App in 2012 as part of an initiative to reduce sexual assault in the campus communities of the nation’s capital. Since then, the app has expanded into what is now known as “UASK DMV,” indicating its subsequent spread into the surrounding areas in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
“What this smartphone technology does is provide and coordinate a range of services for students and community members who not only respond to immediate crises, find medical attention, find medical help, find counseling services – but just to know what procedures and resources exist in the Mid-Atlantic region,” Irvin said.
UASK DMV coincides with MCSR’s mission, which is to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.
The app also serves as a “survival tool” and a bystander intervention tool that conveniently allows users to have a wealth of resources at the press of a finger 24 hours and seven days a week, Irvin added.
The event was held on Oct. 18 at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union at University of Maryland-College Park and featured speakers from diverse professional backgrounds who were elated to share their expertise and insight on sexual assault prevention.
Isha Taylor-Kamara, one of the orators, accentuated the impact of the UASK app and the importance of sexual assault awareness on HBCUs. She said she was pleased to be part of such a well-organized event and believes the app will have a profound impact on Bowie State University’s campus community.
“It’s definitely a plus for us at Bowie State University as an HBCU because it’s one way of raising awareness via programming and it’s another way that students have resources on or off campus at their fingertips,” said Taylor-Kamara, the sexual assault health educator with the Wellness Center at Bowie State.
“A lot of students would say they didn’t know that those type of situations (sexual assault) could even happen at an HBCU. They thought it happened at other types of campuses. And they also didn’t know how to report or who to report to. So just having a very basic app that allows the students to be able to connect with on-campus resources and off-campus resources is definitely a plus.”
Taylor-Kamara said she mainly discussed BSU’s sexual assault prevention program and the potential impact of the UASK app.
She identified what she understood to be the highlight of the afternoon: “I would say, for me, the highlight was hearing from the students…Hearing from the students, I think gave it more of a realistic feel. That way we were able to see how students think and what they feel about it (app), you know, whether this would be something they would actually use. So just getting feedback.”
Likewise, Irvin said he was pleased with the turnout, which was comprised of a diverse group of students, faculty and staff from partner educational institutions, representatives from local organizations programs and medical professionals.
Other speakers were Kevin Webb from UMD’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct; Julia Strange, associate director of CARE to Stop Violence office with the UMD Health Center; UMD student Amanda Fusting, member of the Technical Advisory Group; and Caroline Gary Romano with the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women (ACCSW).
Additional topics that the speakers highlighted were medical resources that exist in the DMV, the potential of the community’s ability to be involved in the propagation of sexual assault awareness and their desire to collaborate across regions.
“They said a lot of things, but most importantly the app’s ability to help coordinate and mobilize everyone to prevent sexual assault,” said Irvin of what he observed from the speeches and presentations.
UASK DMV can be downloaded through the Google App Store and is compatible with iOS and Android OS devices. The app and website (www.uaskdmv.org) finds campus-specific and community-based resources for sexual violence in the DMV region and is available in eight languages.
The app’s features are specific to each campus and community. Its emergency notification capabilities include a “panic button” to call emergency personnel, sharing of a GPS location with approved contacts, ability to receive immediate medical attention, contact law enforcement, talk with a counselor and learn what to expect during a hospital examination.
Also, UASK DMV accommodates a wide scope of individuals who may have specific needs, including large print, braille, speech, symbols and straightforward language. It also aims to give users the knowledge and ability to help a friend in danger or find resources to help them.
According to an MCSR press release, research shows one in three women are victimized physically or sexually by an intimate partner in her lifetime, and one in six men have experienced sexual assault in childhood or as an adult.
Furthermore, the confidential app compiles resources for survivors of campus-based crime within all eight District Universities and local community organizations, UMD and Bowie State, with additional assistance from ACCSW.
Irvin expressed what he thought to be the true essence of the launch event and the long-term impact he hopes the UASK app will have.
“We want to make sure that – as we continue to expand, and more people download, and more people go to the website, and more people are talking about the sexual assault – we recognize that we are going to increase the likelihood that we’re going to create environments where sexual assault is absolutely and always abhorred and unacceptable.”
Educational institutions that were partners of the UASK DMV project included Bowie State, UMD, ACCSW, American University, Catholic University, Gallaudet University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, Trinity Washington University and University of the District of Columbia.