Can technology help curb sexual assault on campus?

Can mobile applications truly reduce the number of sexual assaults and rapes that take place on the nation’s college campuses?

Wendy Mandell-Geller was just putting the finishing touches on a mobile app focused on reducing the incidences of sexual assault on college campuses—while also encouraging safer sex—when a new, 5-year study validating her beliefs was published in Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics. The report suggested that mobile cell phone interventions are an effective mode for delivering safe sex and sexual health information to youth and young adults (19-24 years of age).

“Youth and young adults account for nearly half of the new infections, primarily as a result of risky sexual behaviors,” according to the report, which points to mobile technology as a popular option for delivering safer sex interventions for adolescents. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 78 percent of teens now have a cell phone and almost half (47 percent) own smartphones. One in four teens (23 percent) has a tablet computer, and 93 percent have a computer or have access to one at home.

And while the report also outlined some key limitations of delivering safe sex information to youth (e.g., the fact that some of the higher risk groups may not have access to smartphones), it did validate Mandell-Geller’s assumption that mobile technology could be effectively combined with safe sex information and consent tools.

The Consent App

In May, she launched a Title IX-compliant sexual education consent tool that gives college students a new, digital tool to instantly give and receive sexual consent. YES to SEX aims to help mitigate and deter unwanted sexual situations by educating young adults on how to confidently say “yes” or “no”; verbally accept a “no”; and make the safest sex protection choices. The app is available as iOS and Android (and is also available online).

“YES to SEX is just one part of the safe sexual consent movement; it’s the link in the chain that brings everything together and puts it in the hands of the students who are using technology,” says Mandell-Geller, founder, “which is the ultimate way to bring information to this age group.”

The app can also be customized for university use and utilized by all collegiate affiliates and their surrounding communities to educate and keep students safe. “Universities still struggle to completely implement all required Title IX sexual consent resources,” says Mandell-Geller, “the YES to SEX EDU platform helps integrate Title IX regulations related to sexual consent and provides protection to students.”

(Next page: Designing for Title IX; beyond compliance)

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