By Megan Parker, Transcript Correspondent
An Ohio Wesleyan alumnus developed a smartphone app to promote a nationwide initiative to aid sexual assault victims on college campuses, which in turn has led to major change at OWU.
Jack Zandi is the creator the Reach Out—College Edition app, which provides victims of sexual misconduct with information on how to report the incident, where to get medical care and more.
“Right around [the time of my college graduation], the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses started to gain traction in terms of media attention, and the topic was becoming increasingly contentious,” Zandi said. “And so it started coming up in our conversations. We identi ed a need
for students to have all this crucial, hard-to-find, often difficult-to-understand information in an easy, intuitive and accessible format.”
The app is supported on campus by Dwayne Todd, vice president of student engagement, and has been supplemented by the work of Josh Lisko, residential life coordinator.
“I work with [Zandi] on the content of the app, making sure that what we have in there is the best information for our stu- dents,” Lisko said. “I’m constantly moni- toring the app to make sure that if there’s things that are meeting our student’s needs, we’re adding those, and if there are things that aren’t meeting our students needs we’re removing those.”
While the app is still relatively new to OWU, it has sparked a series of initiatives against sexual assault on campus. A new program called Sexual Aggression Free Environment OWU (SAFE OWU) is in the works, and will include a variety of programs to help raise awareness and help victims.
“I think it’s going to be a culture change a few years down the line,” Lisko said. “That’s really what we’re going for, is building a culture of love and respect here at OWU.”
Although Reach Out is only the beginning of these programs, it has already provided a basis for contact information and support systems that are free to access and guarantee anonymity, according the app’s FAQ page.
The app explains that it provides sexual misconduct survivors with a “unique feature [that] will guide a user step-by-step from getting help, to preserving evidence, to getting medical care, to understanding all the reporting options and then finally to healing,” according to the app’s instructions.
“Our company has many goals,” Zandi said. “But to put it simply, we want to help campuses and organizations [create] environments that are safe for everyone, and not just the privileged few.”
The university already has procedures in place for reporting and investigating sexual misconduct, most of which takes place on campus, according to the OWU student handbook. However, the app expands victims’ options by including links to off campus support, legal resources, hotlines and other independent aids.
The app is available to 2,488 colleges across the country and has information specific to each campus, according to Zandi. The app is free to download, is available on any iPhone or Android device and does not require any personal information to use.