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New app created to tackle sexual violence on Ottawa campuses

RISE uses GPS technology to link users to services and resources on and off campus

Based on GPS technology, RISE’s support button links people to the closest support resources on and off campus. Credit: Xtra editor

A new mobile app aims to help Ottawa university and college students recognize sexual violence and safely intervene when they see it.

React, Intervene, Support and Educate (RISE) is available in English and French on iTunes, for android phones and via a mobile optimized website.

Funded by Status of Women Canada, RISE is part of the Preventing Violence Against Women on Campuses project. To launch the app, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) and the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC) will visit all four local campuses — Algonquin College, Carleton University, La Cité collégiale and the University of Ottawa. Local students and campuses also played a significant role in the app’s development.

“We spent a year collecting ideas and hearing from young people to develop an app that reflects their experiences and concerns about sexual violence,” says Dillon Black, RISE’s project manager. “We’ve worked with student groups and community-led steering committees. We’ve had tremendous support from all four campuses.”

For Black (who prefers the pronoun they), one of the key components of sexual violence outreach and education is getting people to recognize that violence happens on a continuum. You might not witness a sexual assault, but everyone can play a role in preventing sexual violence and challenging rape culture, they say.

“There’s a continuum of violence,” they say. “You start with rape jokes, and eventually that creates a culture in which we trivialize sexual violence, and it creates a culture in which we make it okay to happen.”

From the rape chant at St Mary’s University to misogyny and sexual violence, rape culture is prevalent on campuses. The app provides accessible tools for bystander intervention and supporting people who have experienced sexual violence, Black says.

Based on GPS technology, RISE’s support button links people to the closest support resources on and off campus. The app also provides different scenarios — like seeing an intoxicated friend or classmate being led into someone else’s dorm room — and gives options on how to respond.

From supporting a friend who’s been sexually assaulted to sharing anti-violence postcards through social media, RISE is an important resource for all students, Black says.

“We know that a lot of young people, especially, are engaged in social media and constantly on their phones,” they say. “I think it’s a great way to kind of use that in a positive and productive way.”