The University of Wisconsin faces serious problems regarding sexual assaults and dating violence. Although organizations at UW have willingly stepped forward to address this problem, sexual assault remains a serious issue, and there is still much that can be done to reduce the rate of violent crime on campus.
One of the simplest ways to do this is installing an app. Recently I spoke with Peter Cahill, CEO of LifeLine Response, who developed an app in 2012 that improves the personal security of its users. Candidly speaking, this app is an amazing tool.
Imagine it’s 2:00 a.m. on a Friday morning and you are getting ready to leave College Library to head back to your apartment, a mere 15 minutes away. Since buses don’t run at this hour, and your friends aren’t around to walk back with you, you head out in the dark alone.
Under normal circumstances, you’d obviously be feeling nervous and vulnerable. However, using LifeLine Response would provide you with peace of mind and security.
Here’s how it works: Once LifeLine Response is activated, the user places his or her thumb over the phone. If that person’s thumb slips off – for example, in the event of an attack – local authorities or campus police will be made aware of his or her GPS location and physical information in 15 seconds. If the app is not deactivated within 15 seconds, a voice and alarm will sound, alerting all in hearing range that the police are on their way. This will effectively scare off an attacker in most cases and leave the would-be victim safe.
LifeLine Response has also developed a platform for universities called LifeLine EDU. As Cahill shared with me, LifeLine EDU is already in use at more than 30 colleges across the country, including Ohio State University. The student government at Penn State University intends to have the app implemented and deployed by mid-January. Four other Big Ten schools have scheduled pilot LifeLine EDU programs for this January.
An overwhelming 92 percent of app users at one Big Ten school say that LifeLine EDU makes them feel significantly safer, and 96 percent of them say every student should have it.
Why is it that UW students don’t have access to LifeLine EDU? Well, it isn’t for lack of trying. Cahill assured me that he has made several attempts since 2012 to contact UW administrators (although he declined to say who specifically). He has also reached out to specific organizations on campus, which expressed interest but unfortunately lacked the power to do much.
Price isn’t an issue either. The app normally costs $21.99, but it would be made available to college students for only $2 to $7. Other colleges that have made this safety measure available to students were charged a flat rate, and students ended up paying a few extra dollars per year in tuition. This definitely seems like a sound investment, especially considering that it can combat the ugly statistics college-aged students face.
One in four women who attend college will experience sexual assault before graduating. The implications of this fact are astonishing when put in context. Take UW for example. Our female undergraduate population is approximately 15,000, which means that 3,750 young women will be violated during their time here on campus.
This fact was initially presented to me during Student Orientation and Registration. I expected speakers to focus on how awful that statistic is and take time to assure us that our future alma mater was doing everything in its power to keep each and every student safe. Instead, I heard a foreboding, “don’t let this happen to you” message.
While it is true that students can take some preventative measures to combat sexual assault — such as walking home with a group of friends, not alone — it is crucial to understand that the perpetrator is wholly responsible.
Furthermore, the university can be held accountable for actions of violence against its students, according to the ruling in Mullins vs. Pine Manor College. It was found that “colleges have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect their students against foreseeable criminal acts of third parties.”
“Reasonable measures” leaves a great deal open to interpretation. Regardless, UW does not seem to be doing all it can to protect students from forseeable acts of sexual assault. This leaves room for undergraduates to take charge and increase all-around campus safety.
Peter’s specific short run goal is to reduce sexual assaults on campuses throughout the United States. This should be a priority at UW as well. Implementing LifeLine EDU at this university would be a conscious effort to combat sexual assaults and foster a safe environment for each and every student.
Briana Reilly (reillybrianar