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New App for Student Combats Sexual Violence

A new personal security app intended for students combats sexual violence.
A new personal security app intended for students combats sexual violence.

The idea came to her while she was getting ready for work, as so many great ideas do. It wasn’t a flash bulb in her head, but an NPR Morning Edition story that sparked her interest.

That’s how Amy Cleckler, gender violence prevention and services coordinator at Duke, describes her first introduction to UASK, a real-time personal security app first launched on campuses in Washington, DC. “We NEED that at Duke!” she told herself, and headed off to work to get started. 

Now, a few months after initially contacting the UASK folks, Duke is introducing the UASK Duke website and app on campus to address sexual violence.

“Using an app is so familiar to students, and the UASK app is very simple. There is a one-touch hotline button, another for reporting an incident to Duke Police, and another to call Durham Police. But it’s equally important that the app also emphasizes options and confidential resources,” Cleckler said. “Most students reach out to a confidential campus resource before reporting formally. It felt like a good way to play to students' natural strengths and preferences for interactions.”

The app also includes a clearinghouse for on- and off-campus resources available to students (emergency medical care, counseling, support services, academic and accommodation changes, follow up care, local police and reporting information), as well as information on how to help a friend and bystander intervention tips and techniques. To date, the app is being used in five locations across the country and has been utilized by more than 50,000 people.

“We want to create a safe and welcoming environment at Duke for all, regardless of gender, gender identity, or gender expression,” said Howie Kallem, Duke’s Title IX coordinator. “Sexual misconduct can interfere with a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from Duke’s programs and activities. More fundamentally, we are trying to prevent sexual misconduct from happening in the first place. We hope this app can be another piece contributing to a safer Duke environment for students.” 

One feature built into the app is pre-programmed, real-time messages users can easily send to friends with a touch of a button. One reads “Help, please come and get me!” Another reads “I’m in an uncomfortable situation. Please call or text me.” The app also offers the ability to create customized messages to send to friends to either alert them of a problem or let them know you’re ok.

“Student safety is Duke’s top priority, and this app was a natural fit for that effort,” Cleckler said. “UASK Duke is one of a number of efforts geared toward preventing gender violence from happening in the first place. We very much hope that students will use the app and its myriad resources to recognize gender violence when it occurs, seek supportive services, and possibly report acts of gender violence that happen to themselves or their friends.”

The UASK Duke app will be available beginning April 5.  Download it on the App Store or Google Play.