Women students develop app to stop sex assaults in Oxford

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Oct 19, 2015 16:46 IST
In May, the principal of Oxford’s Somerville College condemned a culture of sexual harassment at the college. (Reuters file photo)

After cases of sexual assault in recent months, women students in Oxford have coded a new app called First Response to take survivors and friends of sexual assault survivors through the most relevant options available to them to deal with such cases.

These range from attending a sexual assault referral centre to calling the police and getting medical attention. It also provides information about optional ways to respond to a sexual assault and essential knowledge about support resources including critical contact details and answers to frequently asked questions such as what constitutes sexual consent.

In May, the principal of Oxford’s Somerville College condemned a “profoundly worrying” culture of sexual harassment and groping at the college and a rise in “excessively harassing and intimidating behaviour” towards female students.

The app is the first of its kind and was coded by women in Oxford as part of a collaboration between students, the university and professionals from the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, a university release said.

The collaboration includes students involved in ‘It Happens Here’, the Oxford University Student Union campaign to raise awareness of sexual violence at the university, which worked with Code4Rights, an organisation founded by Oxford Rhodes scholar Joy Buolamwini dedicated to promoting human rights through technology and education.

The app itself was coded over ten months by female Oxford students, most of whom had little or no previous coding experience, the release added.

Eden Tanner, co-chair of ‘It Happens Here’, said: “The First Response App revolutionises how survivors can access support, and how we as a community can all take responsibility to be ready and prepared to help someone in distress”.

Catherine Paxton, director of the university’s Student Welfare and Support Services, said: “Oxford University is committed to creating a safe university environment for all students and staff and has been working together with students to offer timely, informed, and appropriate support for those who have experienced sexual violence”.

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