‘Unisafe’ reporting app a revelation

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Image courtesy of LUSU

A new aspect of the iLancaster app is being launched with the aim of creating an easy and accessible way to report harassment. UniSafe, a collaboration between the University and the Students’ Union, is an applet that would give students an easy way to report an instance of harassment or a hate crime when they do not feel comfortable approaching police or staff, or wish to report anonymously.

Available to students whether the incident occurs on campus, on a night out, or in accommodation off campus, the app not only allows students to report, but also directs them to where they can get the help and support they need.

VP Welfare and Community, Anna Lee, said: “The applet has, from start to finish, been survivor-led, ensuring that the applet connects students with the relevant support and services as painlessly as possible. We want to ensure that all students feel comfortable and confident in reporting sexual assault, rape, hate crime or harassment, anonymously or not.”

Traditionally, such issues have to be reported to authorities such as the police, venue security on a night out, or staff within the University. While these direct approaches are still available, the app is an acknowledgement of student needs and creates a system that supports students in serious situations such as those of harassment or hate crime. VP Campaigns and Communications, Katie Capstick, confirmed this telling SCAN that “the app is here to complement these systems and offer an alternative for students who don’t know what to do, where to go or don’t feel confident in using existing reporting methods’’.

She continued: ‘’Many students I have spoken to have no idea what to do if they were sexually assaulted.  This applet provides students with the important information on services available for survivors such as counselling services and Sexual Assault Referral Centres. This app is also about options, there is an assumption in our society that the ‘’correct” way to report harassment is through the police and criminal courts. This is inaccessible for some which is why it is crucial that we are providing students with multiple pathways to empower them to do what is right for them and them only.’’

Provost for Student Experience, the Colleges and the Library Professor Amanda Chetwynd said that the new app is a “fantastic example of collaboration between the Students’ Union, Student Based Services and ISS. We hope UniSafe will benefit students here for years to come. Lancaster is at the forefront of universities in responding to making it simpler for students to know how to report”.

UniSafe will help inform the Union and University of the types of incidents affecting students and the widespread nature of these crimes. Subsequently, this will then help identify the types of campaigns and support systems that need to be implemented to help ensure Lancaster University is a safe space.

Launched last week, during Week 5, the app is now available to use and there is hope that more students feel comfortable enough to come forward with incidents that have happened to them. Capstick noted that ‘’there is a culture that certain incidents are not worth reporting but they are and they must all be taken seriously’’.

It is still unknown how much difference of the app will bring in terms of numbers of reported incidents, but it is a positive step towards creating more developed and accessible forms of support for all students.