D.C. Moves to Help Victims of Sexual Assault and Dating Violence

Photo by wikipedia.org
John A. Wilson Building
John A. Wilson Building

The District government took another step forward through its use of technology to help citizens lead a safer life and to get easier access to city services. At a City Hall Press conference Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander announced a major step forward using that technology that will assist victims of sexual assault and dating violence. Melissa Hook, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Victim Services (OVS) reported on the District’s ongoing initiatives to bring the issues of sexual assault and dating violence to the broader public’s attention.

She thanked a number of individuals and groups who have worked with the District and promoted ideas that led to this initiative. One of those she thanked and then introduced was Neil Irvin, Executive Director, Men Can Stop Rape, the leading men’s violence prevention organization. They developed UASK DC with OVS. This is an app developed in response to an alarming number of occurrences of campus sexual assault coupled with severe underreporting of these incidents.

Mr. Irvin and his staff along with the MPD and numerous other groups have worked with the City and developed the next application for the broader community which was introduced at the press conference. Reporters asked Deputy Mayor Quander about the fact that there has been an increase in these crimes being reported and he asked Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham to respond. Newsham said, “It may not be a bad thing that we have seen a sharp jump in the number of these crimes reported as the District is working to have them reported and bringing  to the attention of its residents that a myriad of services are available to them should they be a victim of such a crime. Currently it is estimated that only 50% of such crimes are being reported”.

The new initiative features a mobile application, website and training components all aimed at providing resources and raising awareness of sexual assault and dating violence. This app is directed at 18-35 year olds who use their mobile phones for everything. This first-of-its kind App is called Ask DC which stands for Assault, Services, Knowledge, DC. It compiles 33 assault-response resources from all service providers in the District in one easily accessible tool. It includes quick access to medical help, law enforcement, 24-hour support hotlines and online chats including many other District specific community resources.

The ASK DC training sessions will provide bystander intervention strategies and sexual-assault-response protocols. These training sessions have already been provided to marines at the Marine Barracks on H Street and Colonel Christian Cabaniss, Commanding Officer of the Barracks spoke about the value he sees this having for current and future marines stationed there as part of the community in the District of Columbia. These training sessions will also be available on an on-going basis to law-enforcement officials, Capitol Hill staffers, deaf and hard of hearing residents and other District communities.

This initiative is part of the Gray administration’s efforts to both combat crime in the District and to ensure that all our residents are aware of the whole range of services that are available to them. The App is free and can be used anonymously.

The ASK DC app is available for free download in the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store or BlackBerry App World and is compatible with BlackBerry, iOS and Android OS devices. Visit ASK DC online or learn more at Men Can Stop Rape. For more information, visit the Office of Victim Services.