Phone app is meant to help victims of sexual assault - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Phone app is meant to help victims of sexual assault

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College students weighed in on the idea of a phone app that allows victims of sex assault to report abuse. (WFSB) College students weighed in on the idea of a phone app that allows victims of sex assault to report abuse. (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

A phone application meant for helping victims of sexual assault is gaining a lot of attention.

The app is called “I’ve-Been-Violated” or “IBV” and allows victims of sexual assault to record their story on their phone and have it stored safely if they ever decide to come forward.

The app asks for the victim’s name, phone number and email address, and there’s an area to record a video statement of what happened.

A group called We Consent put out the app, and their website refers to it as an evidence app.  

"I think the app is a good thing because they can report what happened. They don't forget it and then later on, when they are ready to talk about it, they can go to police and say here this is what happened on this day at this time,” said UConn junior Samantha D'Agostino.

At the University of Connecticut campus, reaction to the app was positive among female students.

According to statistics, on college campuses nationwide, one in four women have experienced some kind of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from unwanted kissing to groping to rape.

"I've been here for a semester and almost like two semesters and I already know like two or three people that have had that happen to them and it's not okay at all,” said UConn freshman Marisa Puma.

Another statistic shows more than 50 percent of victims never report the incident.

The app is intended for the most serious sexual assaults as an avenue to report, rather than to do nothing.

Instructions on the website tell the victim to get to a safe place, activate and run the app and then record your private, encrypted statement. Then authorities can access it as evidence if you choose to contact them at a later date.

However, the question raised is “is the app a good thing or not?”

On the one hand, it might encourage the victim to report the incident, but on the other hand, it might discourage the victim from going directly to police.

“In this case, as well intentioned as it was, it might actually do more harm than good,” said Deb Heinrich, Director of Policy and Public Relations for the CT Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

She said victims of trauma don’t remember all of the details of the event right away and a criminal defense attorney could try to rip holes in their story if they are just going by an app as evidence.

"Say you find out that it is admissible in court and they're traumatized and they're giving details, but not sequentially because they haven't remembered things sequentially, and then this goes into evidence and over time before they hit trial, it's been a while and they start to remember the details,” Heinrich said. “They remember things they didn't say in there. They remember things in a different way, you know as things come back to them.”

Criminal defense attorney Walter Hussey said he doesn’t think the app is a good idea either and urges victims report abuse directly to the police.

"They’d be able to photograph it, videotape it, take a statement, use a rape kit, use many type of vehicles to obtain DNA evidence. If you use an app, I just don't see how it would work,” Hussey said.

In a world, especially among younger people, where there is an app for everything, perhaps it is something useful.

"I definitely think it would be better to have the app than not,” D'Agostino said.

"I guess in the scheme of things, not saying anything at all is not very good at all, the app is probably somewhere in the middle,” Hussey said. “But certainly the police are the biggest stick that you have in your arsenal, the biggest weapon and they should be used, I mean that's what they do."

The Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence said if you don’t call police, at least call their 24 hour hotline at 888-999-5545 to speak to a trained professional to best guide you what to do.

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