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uSafeUS app aims to combat sexual assault and violence


Created by University of New Hampshire (UNH) students, faculty and staff, uSafeUS is an app students can download on their phones that provide preventative tools and resources relating to sexual assault and violence. The UNH students who created the app won first place at the Idea-a-Thon sponsored by the UNH Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC) and second place at the 2016 UNH Social Venture Innovation Challenge (SVIC). 

The uSafeUS app and Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) both work together to prevent sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking against students. SHARPP provides free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and harassment and allies. SHARPP also spreads awareness around the UNH community about sexual assault prevention. The uSafeUS app offers tools and content that could help in any dangerous or uncomfortable situation. The research based tools are available on the app everywhere, and at every time.

The uSafeUS app isn’t just for sexual assault prevention; it helps students in the aftermath of a violent relationship and stalking and both are a big part of the app. It can help people if they are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, and can also directly connect you to SHARPP.

In an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation people can utilize the Time to Leave feature. It will send a text or phone call from a contact selected by you. The contact users chose will not be notified. 

Hannah Drake, uSafeUS project manager, explained, “I like to keep Time to Leave in mind when I’m meeting up with someone for a socially distanced date – especially if it’s someone I’m meeting for the first time or don’t know very well yet. If they come on too strong or say something that makes me feel unsafe, I pretend to check my phone and pull up uSafeUS. I set a timer for my friend Abby to “call” me in the next 2-3 minutes and set my phone back down on the table. When she “calls,” I answer, feign concern at what she’s saying, and leave with a quick apology that she needs me right away.” 

Another feature on the app is the angel drink. When selecting the angel drink on the home page, a fake drink menu will pop up and it will give the option to choose a drink. After selecting the “angel drink” three options will pop up: Help Me Leave, Ask Another To Leave, or Please Call the Police. “Each of these options delivers a discrete message to a bartender or server. You can tell whoever you’re with that you’re just looking up this drink you tried once, and when you show your bartender the screen, they’ll see a message that you need their help” Drake said. She also said that students can use this at the bars located in downtown Durham. 

The prevention programming that SHARPP provides on campus is reinforced by uSafeUS. “[uSafeUS] offers straightforward answers to questions about sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking that you might not be comfortable asking out loud. uSafeUS also offers quick links to SHARPP’S advocacy and direct services, including their 24/7 helpline, options to text/chat with an advocate, and in-person appointments,” said Drake.

Drake said, “As the uSafeUS Project Manager and a UNH alumna (class of 2016), I think the most useful part of the uSafeUS is the fact that UNH students can use the app anywhere. If you’re on campus, if you’re learning remotely, if you’re traveling while on break or visiting home for the weekend – prevention tools and helpful resources for you and your friends are always just a few taps away.”

Drake explained the importance of looking out for oneself and friends, and said she wishes she had the app on her phone when she was in college, “Unfortunately, I know so many people – myself included – who have been on the receiving end of a disclosure in college. When a friend tells you that they didn’t actually want to have sex with that person at that party, or their partner is threatening them, or someone from class won’t stop showing up at their dorm and it’s starting to freak them out, it can be really hard to know what to do. uSafeUS makes it easier for you and your friends to get out of uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situations, and gives you straightforward information on your options for moving forward after an incident. I honestly wish I’d had the app on my phone when I was in college.” 

Drake encourages every student to have the app downloaded on their phone, especially because it is 100% confidential and free. 

Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.

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