Two mobile phone applications that employ innovative uses of text, email and social media, as well as offer users quick and easy access to emergency assistance and dating violence and abuse resources have won the Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge -- a national competition launched in July 2011 by Vice President Joe Biden and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Prototypes of the two winning applications, "Circle of 6" and "On Watch," were selected from a pool of over 30 entries submitted to the Apps Against Abuse challenge page on Challenge.gov. These applications will be available for free public download beginning in early 2012. HHS will highlight these applications on www.hhs.gov/open, as soon as they become available and will work with other federal agencies to help spread the word about their availability.
Sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the challenge called on software innovators to harness the power of mobile technology to help prevent dating violence and abuse by keeping young adults connected to trusted friends and providing easy access to resources for help including local police and abuse hotlines.
Vice President Biden applauded the winning applications earlier today during a conference call with hundreds of college and university officials to discuss ongoing efforts to help better prevent and respond to dating violence and assault on campuses across the country.
"With these applications, a personal electronic device becomes a powerful tool to help young women and men protect themselves, and their friends, from becoming victims of violence," said Vice President Biden, who encouraged college and university leaders to make students on their campuses aware of the applications when they become available for download. "Thanks to the creativity and vision of these developers, young men and women now have a new line of defense against violence."
"These winning applications will help young Americans become more empowered to prevent dating violence and sexual assault," said Secretary Sebelius. "Whether quickly checking in with your friends or sending critical information to your support networks, these innovative tools have the potential to protect and save lives."
Young women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while 1 in 5 will be a victim of sexual assault during college. Many of these assaults occur when the offender, often an acquaintance, has targeted and isolated a young woman in vulnerable circumstances.
"We wish to celebrate all of the participants as they are part of a growing movement that is fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to tackle our nation's challenges -- including campus violence," said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. "They give me great hope that we will invent our way towards a safer society."
"The Apps Against Abuse challenge exemplifies how innovation and collaboration can result in the creation of new tools to help Americans stay healthy and safe, and in this case to help avoid violence and assault," said HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.
Details on the winners of the Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge:
Circle of 6: This iPhone app makes it quick and easy to reach your circle of supporters and let them know where you are and what you need. It takes two touches to get help. The app uses text messaging to contact your circle, uses GPS to locate you when needed, connects to reputable domestic violence organizations, and asks contacts to take a pledge on Facebook to stop violence before it happens.
On Watch: On Watch is an iPhone app that lets you transmit critical information by phone, email, text, and social media to your support network. You can check in with friends, call 911 or campus police with two touches of a button, set countdown timers that send messages and GPS information automatically if events or activities don't go according to plan, and connect to sexual assault, dating violence and domestic abuse hotlines.
Over the past year, in response to the high rates of violence and abuse that continue to face young women under the age of 24, Vice President Biden has refocused his longstanding commitment to reducing violence against women specifically on teens and young adults. Under the vice president's leadership, the administration has undertaken a wide range of new and innovative efforts to address the issue. In September, Vice President Biden launched the 1is2Many project -- a call to action for high school and college-aged students to share their ideas for how to prevent dating violence and assault at the schools and on their campuses. In April, the vice president introduced comprehensive guidance with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault.
The Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge furthers federal efforts to increase support for victims of sexual assault and abuse and to create innovative and targeted ways to bring about change. HHS uses challenges as a way of encouraging innovative ideas to address the HHS mission of creating a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government.