Oxford students launch new app supporting sexual assault survivors
Oxford University students have developed an app designed to support survivors of sexual violence.
First Response takes survivors and friends of sexual assault survivors through the most relevant options available to them, from attending a sexual assault referral centre to calling the police and getting medical attention. It 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.
The app is the first of its kind and was coded by women in Oxford thanks to a collaboration between students, the University and professionals from the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre. Students involved in It Happens Here, the Oxford University Student Union campaign to raise awareness of sexual violence at the university, worked with Code4Rights, an organisation founded by Oxford Rhodes Scholar Joy Buolamwini dedicated to promoting human rights through technology and education.
The project was funded with help from the University’s IT Innovation Challenges, which funds innovative projects designed to enhance the staff or student experience at Oxford by using digital technology. The app itself was coded over ten months by female Oxford students, most of whom had little or no previous coding experience but who received training from Code4Rights.
I am proud that the University through its IT Innovation Challenges could play an enabling role in this pioneering project.
Catherine Paxton, Director of Student Welfare and Support Services
Eden Tanner, President of St John’s College Middle Common Room and 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. Our vision is to have every student, staff member, and person in the wider Oxford community have access to the app, and the help and support it offers.
‘Other initiatives that It Happens Here have been involved with are the Sexual Consent workshops, which were delivered at all 30 colleges that accept undergraduates, first responder training, and events throughout term to raise awareness of sexual violence in Oxford. We hope to continue to work with the University to create structural and institutional changes to help support survivors, and have had very positive dialogues thus far.’
Catherine Paxton, Director of the University’s Student Welfare and Support Services, said: ‘The creativity and drive which It Happens Here and Code4Rights have demonstrated in bringing the First Response app to fruition is inspirational and spurs on everyone in Oxford working to create a safe university environment.
‘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. I am proud that the University through its IT Innovation Challenges could play an enabling role in this pioneering project, and strongly encourage colleagues to access this rich resource which will help us better support students.’
First Response provides resources specific to Oxford, including information about local clinics and referral centres. It is freely available on both apple and android devices.