A 2015 Department of Defense study found that more than 20,000 members of the military ― both men and women ― were sexually assaulted in the year prior. The issue was highlighted in the 2012 documentary, The Invisible War, as well.
Now, the US Navy is taking a new approach to preventing on-duty sexual assault: it has invested $150,000 in a smartphone app, LiveSafe, that was originally created to prevent on-campus gun violence. The Navy recently began a six-month trial with the app for junior-enlisted sailors in Rota, Spain and Hampton Roads in Virginia.
Through the LiveSafe app, sailors can send their location to a friend if they’re walking home late and the friend can virtually “walk home” with them. It also allows users to report suspicious activity to their superiors (with the option to remain anonymous), and access counseling or emergency medical services with the push of a button.
The app was launched in 2014, partially as a response to the tragic 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. Kristina Anderson, who survived the shooting, wanted to create a platform for people to communicate any suspicious activity in hopes of preventing similar attacks.
LiveSafe CEO Carolyn Parent told The Huffington Post that the app has made it easier for people to report anything suspicious and to access safety resources. After the Virginia Tech shooting, she said, many people were aware of the shooter’s behavioral red flags but didn’t know what to do about it. With LiveSafe, students can anonymously text any tips to campus safety officials (among many other features).
The Arlington-based app has been picked up not just at Virginia Tech, but at other Virginia-based universities such as Old Dominion and James Madison, as well as companies and colleges around the country, to prevent on-campus violence. LiveSafe customizes the app with each organization’s needs.
Parent believes that the US Navy will benefit from the app as much as other institutions have.
“This is really all about prevention,” she told HuffPost. She said that the investment in a preventative app like LiveSafe outweighs the emotional and financial cost of having to respond to an instance of sexual assault that has already occurred.
“The costs of investigation, legal, services, time away from work…it all costs a fortune, on top of a seriously traumatic event,” she said.
But with LiveSafe, those occurrences will hopefully diminish.
LiveSafe is free to download, and available on Android and Apple devices. If the US Navy sees success with the platform during its six-month trial, it will roll out the app for its members in more locations.