In the digital age, technology plays a significant role in almost every aspect of our lives — including the battle against sexual assault, in the service of which important new tools are arriving all the time. Joining the ranks is Reach Out, a free smartphone app geared towards helping sexual assault survivors and advocates on college campuses find the resources they need. Reach Out, which is available for download on both iPhone and Android, seeks to simplify the process of taking action by offering an easily accessible, campus-specific guide at the touch of a button. “Our main guiding principle is to empower students and put control back into the hands of a survivor of sexual assault,” Zach Csillag, Reach Out’s marketing manager, tells Bustle. “A survivor of sexual assault shouldn’t have to dig deep into a college/university or rape crisis center’s website to find the information pertinent to them.”
The app, which launched just before the Fall 2016 semester, is already available in more than 2,500 college campuses nationwide. Reach Out's information database, which is gleaned from public sources and verified by its developers, includes tools such as lists of on- and off-campus medical care and counseling options, directions for how to file a report and who to contact, and information regarding school policies and procedures — all in one centralized, up-to-date anonymous portal. "Our mission is to deliver a complete solution that starts with awareness, offers safety and prevention solutions, facilitates reporting, presents care options, and finally incorporates assessment," Csillag explains.
Reach Out was conceptualized and created by Racquel Giner, Jack Zandi, Billy Sadik-Khan, and Zach Csillag, four recent college graduates who had returned to their hometown in 2014 after earning degrees from different universities. They came up with the idea for the app as they "sat around a suburban kitchen table playing Settlers of Catan," according to their website .
The pervasive nature of sexual assault on college campuses is an upsetting reality, and despite heightened awareness and steps being taken to teach consent, students are still very much at risk. "When my partners and I graduated from college, we all wanted to do something impactful, so focusing on campus sexual assault made a lot of sense to us. We're all passionate about every student's right to a meaningful and enjoyable college experience," says Csillag.
The shocking statistics that one in five women and one in 16 men will be assaulted before graduation prompted the four friends to found their startup Capptivation and take action. "Given that fact that we were recently graduated, we felt that we could provide unique perspective into taking steps toward tackling the issue," Csillag adds. "Our mission then became to support our peers on campuses all across the country with the ultimate goal of creating safer campus communities."
The recent graduates felt they had a unique opportunity to make something meaningful. "We thought long and hard about what features would be most useful to college students in crisis and used our own experiences as a reference," says Csillag. The app is completely anonymous with no registration required — a decision which was easy to make, according to Csillag, who notes, “We don’t want there to be any barriers to entry for students that need to access the information.” There is even an anonymous messaging system, CappMail, which enables students to anonymously message any contacts within the app that a college or university chooses.
The company is planning to expand to high schools and middle schools with a second version of Reach Out. Due to the small size of the team, schools will need to pay a small licensing fee for the console and add in their own information, though schools that cannot afford to license will receive the technology for free. "Reach Out for secondary schools will go well beyond sexual misconduct. It includes resourcing for: eating disorders, suicide/depression, disabilities, LGBTQ+, child abuse, substance abuse, etc. The 'etc.' indicates that there is no limit to the areas addressed," says Csillag. "We want to partner with all institutions of higher education, secondary schools, and community service providers to deliver the most accommodative and helpful tool that we can to any student in crisis."
The creators see the highly customizable app as something with endless possibility, suggesting that it could even be "used as a platform to spark grassroots campaigns on campuses across the country."
Download Reach Out here to learn more about the resources on your campus.