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The Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC), and other community partners released an app in September to educate students about gender-based violence.

The app was supported by University of Ottawa groups including Health Services, the Centre for Equity and Human Rights, and the Women’s Resource Centre. Student groups at Carleton University, Algonquin College, and La Cité collégiale also support the app. It was developed by Purple Forge, a developer specializing in providing apps to organizations looking to communicate and create social change.

Named R.I.S.E., the app teaches students to react, intervene, support, and educate. It presents scenarios faced by many students, such as sexual harassment and online bullying, and provides answers and suggestions on how to respond.

“We’re advocating bystander intervention as a solution,” said Dillon Black, project manager and member of OCTEVAW.

Bystander intervention teaches witnesses of violence against women to help recognize incidents leading to sexual assault by giving them information about signs of violence as well as advice on how to intervene safely. It also shifts responsibility to everyone to step in and support their peers.

“It eliminates our culture of simply blaming the victim,” Black said.

During 101 Week, the OCTEVAW and the ORCC visited all four Ottawa post-secondary campuses to promote R.I.S.E.

“The start of the school year sees the highest incidents of sexual violence on college and university campuses,” said OCTEVAW executive director Erin Leigh. “The R.I.S.E. app empowers young people with the knowledge they need to identify it and address it.”

The app also provides a map of all violence and women’s support centres in the Ottawa area, as well as links to videos and articles about preventing violence and supporting victims.

R.I.S.E. is part of the Preventing Violence Against Women on Campuses Project, funded by Status of Women Canada. The project involves building partnerships and collaborating with campuses to respond to young women’s needs, expand their understanding of these issues, and carry out strategies to prevent, reduce, and raise awareness for gender-based violence issues. It also includes gender-based analysis that identifies and responds to issues of violence affecting women on campuses in Ottawa.

“We spent a year collecting ideas and hearing from young people to develop an app that reflects their experiences and concerns about sexual violence,” said Black. “We’ve worked with student groups and community-led steering committees. We’ve had tremendous support from all four campuses.”

Black said the reception for the app has been “fantastic” and download numbers will be available in the next few weeks.

R.I.S.E. is available for free from App Store and Google Play.