By Sydney Bucholtz
When a college student meanders along their dimly-lit, lamppost-lined sidewalk, through the moonlit grass of the quad, and to their parked car, they should ideally feel safe enough to do so unaccompanied. Realistically, most students do not. The infographic “How College Students Perceive Safety on Campus,” conducted by RAVE Mobile Safety, surveyed hundreds of Student Government Association members from college students across America with the goal of determining how students perceive safety on their campus. Only 23-percent shared that they felt their university to be “Extremely Safe.” While different types of danger have the potential to unfold within this setting, one of utmost severity and concern is that of sexual assault. Recently, the company Capptivation created the smartphone app Reach Out Editions: an anonymous, campus-specific resource which exists to empower student survivors of sexual misconduct and provide them with information about their options for support on and off-campus. Jack Zandi, a partner at the company, shed some light on the app’s creation with The Griffin, saying, “The fact that one in four college women could expect to be sexually assaulted by the time they graduated astounded us, and we identified an opportunity to provide technologically innovative solutions that would help people who have experienced some form of sexual misconduct, who often find themselves confused and unsure where to turn in the aftermath of sexual violence.”
In the realm of college-aged students, according to RAINN’s recent Campus Sexual Violence Statistics, “11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students)” and 80-percent of sexual assault incidents involving college-aged women (18-22 years) go unreported. Additionally, a disturbing majority of survivors struggle to find the support they need.
Accompanied by these alarmingly high rates, the lack of support for survivors was a prominent reason behind Capptivation’s creation of Reach Out Editions. Zandi described the process behind organizing the application, which is a more current and expansive version of Reach Out, the original app, existing specifically for sexual misconduct survivors on college campuses.
“Capptivation is a tech company that aims to solve a number of problems. Our app, Reach Out Editions, provides resources for survivors of sexual misconduct on college campuses, prep school campuses, in high schools, and in the military,” he began.
Zandi shared that in the fall of 2014, just as the topic of campus sexual assault gained traction in the news media, he and three other recent graduates—Racquel Giner, Zach Csillag, and Billy Sadik-Khan—founded Capptivation out of a small office in Zandi’s house in suburban Chappaqua. “We utilize various forms of media,” Zandi continued, “such as short animations that explicate the myriad meanings of consent—to help institutions reinforce their anti-sexual misconduct messaging; and we work to promote environments that are safe and inclusive, not just for the privileged few, but for everyone.”
With the launch of Reach Out Editions, the company has also begun to provide resources which address additional problems that students face, including mental health struggles, eating disorders, etc.
“We’ve had amazing feedback from the campuses we’re partnered with,” Zandi said. The platform is completely anonymous, so the company is unable to provide numbers indicating usage. However, Zandi informed that with currently 2,488 schools in the Reach Out database and 41,203 resources available to users, Reach Out Editions is partnered with apps in 37 different states and covers 330,000 students.
The vast span of the application advocates for potential awareness, safety, and support for survivors at universities across the country. “Our primary mission is to help institutions create safe environments for all people,” Zandi articulated. “We often say that a price of a college tuition should not implicitly include a one-in-four or a one-in-sixteen chance of being sexually assaulted. We aim to help dig rape culture out by its roots.”
One such root is that which alludes to a sexually assaulted individual as having somehow “asked for it,” “had it coming,” or “deserved it.” As defined by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University of Michigan: “Consent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says ‘yes’ to sexual activity with other persons. Consent is always freely given and all people in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or stop the sexual activity at any point.”
Freely given. All people. At any point.
No one is asking for sex unless they are literally asking an individual to have sex with them.
An individual does not have sex coming unless they unquestionably agree to it. An individual does not have it coming if they say “yes” initially, but then change their mind and express that.
And anyone excusing unwanted sexual behavior through explanation that the victim “deserved it” is explicitly condoning rape culture.
While the month of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, is indubitably vital, basic human rights do not and should not know time constraints. A right to one’s own body and advocacy for sexual assault prevention and support for victims and survivors surpasses this time period, and it surpasses the individuals involved as well.
As Zandi described, “The fight against sexual misconduct needs to occur at all levels of institutional hierarchy. Those in power need to commit to providing solutions for marginalized populations, as well as to providing educational resources for students,” he said. “And fighting rape culture can happen at the ground level; bystander intervention is one way to fight it, and offering [support to] a friend who has been assaulted can be another way.” Not only should those who know about an incident involving sexual assault speak up and potentially aid in reporting it, but even physical presence of a bystander makes a “completed rape 44-percent less likely” to occur, according to the One in Four USA website.
“The solutions that Capptivation provides can’t achieve this mission alone, although we think they’re a great start,” Zandi shared. “Once people become more informed about how rape culture operates systemically, what the ramifications of assault are on the lives of those involved, and how sexual misconduct can be prevented, our goals have a much greater chance of being achieved. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the technology and actual people who are affected by these issues (i.e. everyone).”
Reach Out Editions can be downloaded or previewed in the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. It is free to download, and after one opens the application, they can search for Canisius College to be taken to the homepage.
“We’ve gotten extremely positive press coverage from multiple media sources, including Forbes, The Guardian, and Mic,” continued Zandi. “This issue is no longer being silenced and relegated to the margins—which means the chances of obliterating rape culture have greatly increased. Our app is one piece of the puzzle, and will supplement the efforts of others. It’s going to take a village to win every battle against the sexual misconduct epidemic plaguing this country’s institutions. There will be challenges—and yet, we’ll persist.”