District-Wide Initiative to Aid Student Victims of Violence and Sexual Assault
Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray and representatives from the Mayor’s Office of Victim Services (OVS) joined student leaders, experts in sexual assault prevention, law-enforcement officials and administrators from universities throughout the District for the official launch of “University Assault. Services. Knowledge. Washington, DC” (U ASK DC), a new District-wide initiative to promote services for college students in the aftermath of victimization.
U ASK DC features a mobile application and website that, for the first time, compiles resources for victims of campus-based crime, including sexual assault and dating violence, from all eight District universities and 19 DC community organizations into one easily accessible tool. It includes contact information for immediate medical attention and law enforcement, answers to key questions on what to expect during a hospital examination and police reporting and information on sexual assault support services within the community and specific to each campus.
“Studies show us that a significant percentage of college women who experience incidents of violence or sexual assault never report them to authorities for a wide variety of reasons,” Mayor Gray said. “U ASK DC is an effort to ensure that the thousands of women on the District’s college campuses have full access the resources they need to help themselves and their peers.”
OVS partnered with leading men’s violence-prevention organization Men Can Stop Rape to develop U ASK DC, an all-in-one resource that guides college students in the DC area in responding to the victimization of themselves or a friend.
According to the 2011 College Dating Violence and Abuse Poll, nearly half of dating college women (43 percent) report having experienced violent or abusive dating behaviors, and more than one in five (22 percent) report actual physical abuse, sexual abuse or threats of physical violence. Research from the Department of Justice also shows that fewer than 5 percent of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape report it to police. Many are reluctant because they do not know where to go for help, because they fear that authorities will not believe them, or because they believe that nothing will be done if they come forward. This severe underreporting is a serious problem that ensures few victims receive adequate help, allows offenders to evade consequences and keeps colleges in the dark about the full extent of the problem.
“The U ASK initiative has been creative, collaborative and inclusive. As a result we have developed a tool with students, for students, that we can make available to every university town in the country,” said OVS Director Melissa Hook. “Now, for the first time all the campus and community sexual assault service providers are easily accessible for students. We want this app to help prevent campus incidents, and at the same time to encourage victims to come forward and receive the care that they need.”
U ASK DC represents a unique collaboration between D.C. universities and local agencies to more readily connect students with the many life-saving victimization resources that are available to them.
“Core to our programming is the idea that every person, especially young men, has a role to play in preventing rape and sexual assault, whether that means speaking up when abuse is suspected, helping connect victims with the proper resources or simply being knowledgeable about what to do when a sexual assault occurs,” said Neil Irvin, Executive Director of Men Can Stop Rape. “The U ASK tools are so great because they not only make trauma-focused resources highly accessible for victims, but they also equip bystanders with an easy way to support a friend who is in crisis or confides in them about a past assault.”
U ASK DC also includes off-campus resources for crime victims, including follow-up medical services, legal services, services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and services for English as a second language and international students. U ASK DC is a model program that can be adapted and replicated by other states to increase student reporting of rape and sexual assault, reduce the number of incidents among college students and raise awareness about community resources.
Partners of the U ASK DC project include the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program – a program of OVS and the Washington Hospital Center – the DC Rape Crisis Center, Break the Cycle, Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment (SAFE), the Network for Victim Recovery of DC, the Metropolitan Police Department, American University, The Catholic University of America, Gallaudet University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, Trinity Washington University, University of the District of Columbia and other important community resources.
The U ASK DC app is available for free download and is compatible with iOS and Android OS devices. Visit U ASK DC online at www.uaskdc.org, or learn more about Men Can Stop Rape at www.mencanstoprape.org.
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