Londonderry man helps develop sex assault prevention app

BREANNA EDELSTEIN/Staff photoTJ Evarts, 22, of Londonderry displays an application he helped develop called uSafeUS. It is intended to provide resources for victims of sexual assault and their allies, as well as means to prevent assaults.

A 22-year-old from Londonderry helped develop a smartphone application intended to prevent sexual assault on college campuses and place resources in the hands of victims and their allies if an assault does occur.

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and the creators of uSafeUS gathered at the University of New Hampshire in Durham Friday to discuss the statewide collaborative effort. 

"This is truly a New Hampshire-made effort," MacDonald said. "We all have smartphones. We all use them 24/7, and they seem to hold everything in our lives. That applies particularly to young people on this campus and the millions of others like them across the country."

MacDonald credited Kathy Kimball, Sexual Assault Research Team coordinator at the attorney general’s office, with the idea to use smartphones as a widespread way to provide "cutting edge, evidence-based" information.

The app, uSafeUS, is available for download on iPhone and Android.

With a user-friendly, simple layout designed by Londonderry's TJ Evarts, uSafeUS spells out the options for victims following an assault, such as contacting police and getting medical attention.

Campus officials have the ability to customize the application for their area with specific local resources.

Prevention efforts, such as a section called 'Time to Leave,' enables students to send themselves a simulated text message or phone call which provides a realistic excuse to leave an uncomfortable situation.

A few clicks into the application also provides a discreet way for users to notify bartenders or wait staff that help is needed under the guise of showing them a drink recipe.

'Expect Me,' which was among the more popular features in test groups, enables students walking home alone at night to let a friend know when they can be expected back safely. The friend is notified with a follow-up message if the amount of time a user designated themselves has expired.

Executive Director of Research Sharyn Potter praised the dedicated efforts of her team, and specifically Evarts.

"TJ has spent countless hours developing the front end of the app and the website," she said. "And we are so lucky to have him."

One in five students are sexually assaulted during their college careers, Potter said, most of which go unreported. She noted that those statistics have been unchanged since the first study on sexual assault was released in 1987.

"I think this is going to prove to be a really powerful tool for a lot of people," Evarts, a sophomore chemical engineering major, said. "I heard that the team was looking for people to join and help out, and I'm passionate about designing."

The application is available to download for free in New Hampshire, and will launch in other states soon, Potter said. She is unsure of an exact date it will become available elsewhere.

A website version of the uSafeUS can be found at usafeus.org.

The Prevention and Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire partnered with the New Hampshire attorney general's office, the New Hampshire Violence Against Women Campus Consortium, New Hampshire Sexual Assault Resource Team and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to create the application.

Early funding was provided by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation 2016 AMP Award and the University of New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge Award.

UNH Manchester, UNH Innovations, Pulsar Labs and TechClarity Communications also contributed to the project's creation.

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