Anyone paying attention knows that sexual assault on college campuses is a problem that women’s groups, Greek organizations, college presidents and legislators all are looking to stop.
Now there’s an app that might help — two, actually. Both are tools college students and young people could use in the moment to start a conversation about mutual consent.
A poll out this month by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 25 percent of young women and 7 percent of young men say they have suffered unwanted sexual incidents in college.
Many cases came down to one question, the report said: Did both people agree to have sex?
The apps might have the answer. It’s pretty simple. There’s a no app and a yes app.
Use one to drive home the no-means-no message; use the other to record both parties agreeing to the encounter. Both apps are free with a $5 annual membership to the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence.
Michael Lissack, president of the institute in Marblehead, Mass., created the apps, which were launched this month. The no app, “What-About-No,” is available through the App Store on Apple’s iTunes. The yes app, “We-Consent,” is accessible on the app website.
Kristin Wing, president of GreekGab, said the apps are “an interesting idea,” and she sees them as a good way to launch the consent conversation. Wing envisions the app used by whole student organizations, maybe even athletic teams — they’re available cheaper in bulk.
“The way these students are driven by technology, these apps just might be interesting enough and hipster enough for them to try it,” Wing said.
That’s what Lissack is counting on. “I know that kids are so attached to their phones they have them with them even when they don’t have clothes on,” he said.
Tap the yes app, and a voice asks for your name, whether you are about to engage in sex and with whom. All of that is recorded. Then you point the phone at your partner, who is recorded answering the same questions.
Press the no app, and the phone flashes “stop” or “no” in red. You show that screen to the other person. Then a recording of a police officer appears and says non-consensual sex could be a crime. “No means no,” he says in a tough Boston cop accent. The person listening to the cop also is being recorded.
Both apps monitor time and location. The recordings are double-encrypted and stored off-line, where they are accessible only to law enforcement or university personnel. “No video records are preserved on the phone,” Lissack said.
In a hookup situation, the app might make young people stop and think. But Lissack said, “If someone is hell-bent on committing a violent act, no app other than a 911 app is going to help.”