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Can computer software help prevent sexual assault?

December 19, 2016

In a year where sexual assault allegations have often dominated the news (in many cases with little or no consequences for the alleged perpetrators), it is becoming increasingly important to find new and creative ways to battle sexual assault. April Glaser, a columnist for Wired suggests that there might be a software solution to the problem of women being afraid to report their harassers directly. “She would need a way to communicate safely and anonymously with other victims — a mechanism for filing her story in a trusted, fully encrypted system that would allow her to maintain control of her identity” Glaser writes. “Then if others were to report the same perpetrator, victims could be alerted and invited to join a private messaging center. There they could communicate, coordinate, and, if they decide to, send a report to law enforcement and any organizations affiliated with their alleged assailant. Police would then be pressed to review the report, contact the victims, and weed out any impostors.” With all the technology already in place, she argues it should be easy to develop a kind of “Dropbox” for reporting sexual assault and calls on Silicon Valley to work toward developing something in that vein. While some might dismiss the idea, Glaser argues that such a software could be a necessary tool given how difficult it is for victims to report the crime and how hard it can be to prosecute, adding that it might work as a deterrent as well. “There are stories like the Brock Turner case and others in the media that make it very clear that the system is just not there to support survivors,” Riddhi Mukhopadhyay, the director of Sexual Violence Legal Services at the YWCA said. “Online organizing could make prosecutions easier. “When it’s ‘he said, she said, she said, she said’ and multiple victims are willing to testify, it can really help the case move through the criminal justice system.”

Read the full story at Wired.