ASK-logo_black-final.jpg

Availability: Apple Market, Android Stores, and online

Price: Free

Created by: Men Can Stop Rape and various community partners

Website 

Last Reviewed: June 2016 

Standing for ‘Assault, Services, Knowledge’, the ASK tool is a series of apps and websites designed to provide locally specific information to those who have been victims of sexual assault or need information for someone who has. The ASK tool has currently been developed for residents in Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, and North Dakota. There is also a version specific to university students in the DC metropolitan area and the Duke University region.

The websites and applications contain information on local hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and advocacy services.  The applications and website also include information and options to consider if you have been sexually assaulted, what happens during a forensic exam, and other information a survivor may need to know during that time. There are also resources for bystanders, teens, the LGBTQ community, the military community, and communities that are bilingual.

In addition to providing resources, there is a panic button that immediately dials 9-1-1 from any location, and will notify the closest emergency personnel. The app also allows users to send emergency and notification messages to pre-selected contacts with their location.Users have the ability to upload their emergency information and add contacts directly from their phone.  In the emergency information form, users can include medical information, designate who they want contacted in an emergency and who they would not want contacted. Note: the UASK Duke app does not include the ability to include GPS coordinates via message or storing emergency medical information. 

What We Love:

  • The tool is informative to users about potential privacy and confidentiality limitations when reporting sexual assault in certain scenarios. For example, there is information letting users know that if they disclose to certain people in a campus setting, such as Resident Assistants or campus officials, that those people may be under obligations to report the sexual assault. This language makes it clear that users should look into the confidentiality obligations and limitations when choosing who to disclose to.
  • Phone numbers for resources are prioritized with hotline numbers listed as the first number for each resource. When the resource only has a business phone number, the time frame of hours of operation is listed. 
  • The applications and website do a great job of letting survivors, bystanders, and community members know the resources that are available to them in their own community. 
  • The application has a list of languages that users can pick from making it more widely accessible.
  • The emergency contact and medical information forms can be helpful to someone using them strategically, but should be used carefully to ensure that the information remains private. Users should consider whether someone else could have access to their device or if they can password protect their device to add a layer of security and privacy.
  • Users can choose which texting application they want to use to send a text message to contacts. This option, as opposed to requiring that messaging be done through the default app, allows for strategic use if the user purposely wants to use something that will not keep a log of the text on the phone or bill.
  • The app links to the techsafety.org blog that gives more information for survivors or victims who may need more information technology especially around computer and cellphone monitoring. 
  •  The app does have pre-set message emergency and notification message that can be sent immediately to selected contacts, as well as customized messages.   Users need to have their customized alert messages pre-programmed in the phone prior to an emergency situation if they want to customize a message.  
  •  If users want to create their own messages to send to their emergency contacts, the application gives them the ability to turn on or off location sharing or including emergency information. 
  • The UASK Duke application has two panic buttons for 9-1-1 and the university police. This tool could be useful for someone who may feel unsafe and can reach campus or local police quickly. 

Safety & Privacy Considerations/ Tips:

Resources

  • There is a significant amount of information included and the application font cannot be enlarged, which may make it inaccessible to someone who has visibility needs.

Communication with Emergency Contacts and Notifications

  • Users who want to send a text message whether pre-set or customized messages are redirected to either the phones messaging service, or if there are other messaging services, such as WhatsApp, installed on the phone, then the user must then decide which service is the best for them. Users should be mindful that if they chose to use their native text service or an additional app that the message will remain in their history of the app or on the call or text log of the bill using the native app.
  • The application does not let the user dial 9-1-1 or any other numbers from their app; it redirects users to their native phone service, which means that it can show up in the call logs of the phone. This could be an issue if the user does not want someone who may be monitoring their device to know that they are calling a hotline number or any other number. 
  • Adding Emergency Information such as a list of medication or medical conditions could be a privacy risk if the information is shared outside of medical personnel or the information is compromised. Before using the app for this sensitive information, users should consider who may have access to their phone at any time and if they want to put a password on their phone to limit access.
  • If a user decides to use a pre-set message, the user is not given the same option to turn on and off location sharing or the sharing of emergency information. 

Location & Accuracy

  • In tests we found that approximate location was sent on 3 occasions to emergency contacts with data services and GPS turned on and exact location was sent to the emergency contact when GPS and mobile data had been turned off. Users should test to ensure location is accurate before an emergency situation arises.
  • When the GPS was turned off, the app prompted the user to turn location services back on. It did not prohibit users from using the resources listed in the app; however it did prohibit location sharing ability. When not in use survivors may want to turn location off to maximize their privacy.
  • Pre-set or customized messages automatically include the option to inlude the user's GPS location and emergency information.  Users must proactively turn this feature off if they do not want their location shared.