Over the summer, I wrote about the problem of sexual violence within the expat aid worker community. Of course, it’s not just aid workers – there’s an epidemic of sexual violence worldwide, and although women are at the frontlines, it affects everyone, regardless of gender, age, race or socioeconomic status.
After that post, Expat Backup got seriously hacked and it took a while to bring the site back up again. But at the same time, I began to receive emails from aid worker survivors of rape and sexual assault who were willing to share their stories with me. It was a humbling experience.
One thing that survivors had in common was knowing that they needed to access emergency medical care while feeling uncertain and alone. For many of them, the process of getting this care was less than straightforward, and even if their organization was supportive (which it sometimes wasn’t), the doctor at the clinic might not have been. The unnecessary stress of needing to negotiate getting critical medical care on their own made it more likely that they would later suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression.
All of this is not okay. Not for aid workers, not for anyone.
If a rape survivor shows up at the hospital in a city resourced enough to have a rape crisis center, the hospital calls the center, and the center reaches out to a volunteer network of Rape Crisis Counselors they’ve trained and certified.
In less than half an hour, the volunteer on call arrives at the hospital to accompany and advocate for the survivor, helping them to move through the medical system and access the full range of medical services they need to prevent pregnancy, HIV and sexually-transmitted infections. When I lived in New York, I volunteered as a Rape Crisis Counselor through the Mount Sinai Hospital SAVI Program.
It might seem like, in rich countries, this kind of service is unnecessary. Sadly, it isn’t. I’ve volunteered in a case where staff argued with a survivor about whether the rape was “real” or not, because the person hadn’t been able to vocalize an audible “no.” This happened right after they drew blood to test for date rape drugs, and even then it wasn’t obvious to them that their question was out of line. Those providers had received state medical training on how to work with survivors of sexual assault and they were still handling the situation poorly. In other contexts, there are even more challenges.
My organization, Code Innovation, takes successful aid projects and digitizes them so that they can scale. We’ve been building mobile apps and working in m-learning for almost a decade, mostly with projects that are process-based and focused on education.
In the last few months, I’ve been in conversation with survivors and rape crisis centers, exploring the idea of digitizing the training for Rape Crisis Counselors into a free mobile app, released into the Creative Commons. I’ve received overwhelming support from the rape crisis centers, gender-based violence experts, aid workers, women’s rights defenders and non-profits, many of whom we’re now working with to create the resource. Already, we have women’s rights organizations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East eager to use the app as a training resource in their own work.
Together, we have the knowledge and expertise to create a resource that helps survivors and their advocates access information to help them negotiate getting crucial medical care after sexual assault.
If this is a project that is close to your heart, or you know someone who’s been raped or affected by sexual violence, I hope you’ll consider supporting us by donating and sharing the campaign.
You can find the page here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rape-crisis-counseling-app
I don’t normally ask for help, and it feels vulnerable to have launched the project as a crowdfunding campaign. But I know that by stepping forward and taking a stand for rape survivors everywhere, we can not only lend them a helping hand with this resource, but start to break the silence around sexual violence in our communities.
Thank you for sharing, for contributing as you can (even $1 helps to create social proof and momentum!) and for being a part of this community.
Here’s the link to the Rape Crisis Counseling app crowdfunding page again: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rape-crisis-counseling-app
And here’s where you can find out more information and details: http://codeinnovation.com/blog