Digital Defense: Smart ways for women to stay safe - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Digital Defense: Smart ways for women to stay safe

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - One in six American women will be raped.

Rape is also the most common violent crime on college campuses.

That's all according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

An Arkansas State University police officer said we hear about rape more than ever now, thanks to social media and technology.

And that technology could save a woman's life.

Women have always been told to be aware of their surroundings, walk home with a friend and know how to defend themselves.

However, one app is making headlines because of its specific focus: digital defense.

Local university police said it could work and one Region 8 rape survivor wishes she had it.

“He left and my life was never the same after that," said the survivor, who asked Region 8 News to hide her identity.

A knock at the door 20 years ago changed her life.

“It was three guys I went to school with,” she said. “I didn't have no fear, knew them very well, and I let them come in.”

When inside, she asked one boy to talk in private about possibly dating her friend. She thought that was a safe choice: asking a favor for a friend from a fellow friend.

But once the two were alone, she quickly realized she was very wrong.

“He slammed me so hard against the wall that when the back of my head hit the wall, it basically knocked me out,” she said. “The room was dark and that's when he raped me.”

So disoriented from the blow to her head, she could barely talk much less put up a fight. But she could still hear.

“He was laughing,” she said. “He stood beside the bed and as he was zipping up his pants, that's a sound I will never get out of my head.”

This woman did not report the rape.

“I felt that I had brought it on myself,” she said. “I let him in.”

Arkansas State University Police Corporal Traci Simpson said that's why many rape cases go unreported: women always blame themselves.

“It's never the woman's fault,” Simpson said. “I just want to tell women that you don't deserve it. Rape doesn't discriminate. If you've been raped, you need to report it, no matter the circumstances.”

Simpson said rape victims need to report the crime as soon as it happens.

“As soon as it happens, women want to wash themselves, they want to clean off, but that's really the worst thing they can do,” Simpson said. “They're just doing nothing but washing away evidence. “

Simpson said this is why so many rapes go unsolved. According to RAINN, 97% of rapists in the U.S. will never spend a day in jail.

Simpson works with many Region 8 women, including this story's victim, in Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes. These free three-day classes, geared toward young girls and older, educate women about rape and teach them how to defend themselves.

“We try to carry it on our own and we can't,” the survivor said. “We just can't.”

They say most rape survivors know their attacker, which follows the national trend. According to RAINN, about two thirds of American rape victims know their attacker.

“It's a power trip for them, to degrade us, control us,” the survivor said.

While self defense classes have helped, there's a new, digital defense available for women.

“Nine times out of ten, everybody's going to have their cell phone,” Simpson said. “In my RAD classes, I always tell the women to have their phones charged in case something would happen.”

One app in particular has been making recent headlines because of its focus: rape prevention on college campuses.

It's called Circle of 6 U, a free app created by sexual assault survivors, that partners with college campuses to make help just a couple clicks away.

 “Definitely try it out,” Simpson said. “I'm going to look into it more for my RAD classes.”

Users pick six trusted friends to join a “circle.” And if they need help, in just two clicks, they can send one of several pre-written messages to those friends.

For example, clicking on the app's car icon sends, “Come and get me. I need help getting home safely. Call when you're close,” with the sender's GPS location.

“This could really help,” the victim said. “Anything you can do to get word out to where you're at, anything to help is worth it. We're talking about our lives here.”

Other apps on the market, such as Here for You and LiveSafe, also combine rape prevention with peer communication.

“It's very important that as women, we pull together,” the Region 8 woman said. “Women that are raped, they're not victims. They're survivors.”

This woman is a survivor, happily married with kids; but the assault still haunts her.

“There's times when I hear even the zipper of a coat being zipped, it will cause me to flash back,” she said. “With the help of counseling, I have learned to change that and he doesn't control me.”

He doesn't control her, but he also doesn't go away. She still sees him walking around.

“He did ask me to forgive him after he raped me,” she said. “At the time, I was not ready to forgive him.”

Decades later, she has.

“That was for me,” she said. “I'm the one that now walks with my head held high and he's the one today that's struggling through life.”

The Circle of 6 U app has already garnered attention from Vice President Biden and the White House Task Force to Prevent Sexual Assault.

Only a handful of colleges and universities have partnered with the app.

There is also a Circle of 6 app for use by the general population.

Simpson is hosting her next RAD class Nov. 17-19. The class is free and open to all women. If interested, contact her (870) 972-2093 or tsimpson@astate.edu.

The following are digital defense apps and resources:

Circle of 6 for iPhone and Android

bSafe for iPhone and Android 

Guardly for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone

Here for You for iPhone

LiveSafe for iPhone and Android

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/07/31/334474086/enlisting-smartphones-in-the-campaign-for-campus-safety

Rape Abuse Hotlines and Data:

https://www.rainn.org

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