RUSafe App Gives Life-saving Help to Abuse Victims
Free interactive app identifies key signals of abuse in intimate partner relationships
It can be very difficult to acknowledge that you or someone who you are close to is experiencing an abusive relationship or domestic violence. Yet domestic violence and abuse statistics in the United States are staggering. More than one in three women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. Nearly half of all women and men in the U.S. have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner. If you or a friend is feeling unsafe in a potentially dangerous relationship, there's an app that can help. The RUSafe app aims to reach people before they become a statistic by going where they spend much of their time, on their phones.
"Every minute, approximately 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States," said Robyn Young, domestic violence services director at SafeNet Domestic Violence Safety Network. "Abusive relationships typically begin without any signs of abuse whatsoever, but slowly over time, as trust builds, the abusive behavior can come out in many ways, even before there are any signs of violence."
This is where the RUSafe app comes in and can help assess a situation. RUSafe is a free interactive app for iOS and Android devices that assesses the potential for domestic violence and harm in a relationship. RUSafe was created in Pittsburgh and built on the Danger Assessment developed by Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. The Danger Assessment draws directly upon the lives and experiences of hundreds of domestic abuse survivors. The app can identify key signals of intimate partner violence to help users act before the relationship gets out of control. RUSafe helps to analyze the safety in your own relationship or the relationship of a family member, friend, or coworker.
Here's how it works: by answering a few questions about the relationship, RUSafe helps the user understand the possible threats that they or a loved one may face and if necessary, connects them with nearby emergency safe housing services and domestic violence hotlines using GPS technology. All content is available in three languages: English, Spanish, and Nepali. It also has advanced search functions, links to support services, and a directory of 1,500 shelters nationwide with 24-hour hotlines. The app can be used anywhere in the continental United States, is completely free, and also contains a secure journal tool with audio, photo, and text capabilities.
"The journal tool is really important for documenting incidents of abuse or harassment and even saving photographs of injuries. If you're in an emotional or verbally abusive relationship, keeping a journal of day-to-day interactions can help you to come to terms with the relationship, how it is making you feel and affecting you day-to-day," Young said. Once an entry is saved, it is only accessible to the victim through a protected email address. Friends are encouraged to also download the app to help victims. The journal entries are date-stamped and can be used to help document the injuries in a protection from abuse application against the abuser. Abusers are skilled at using power and control over their victims, which can make leaving the situation difficult and dangerous. Having a friend download the RUSafe app can be helpful in documenting the abuse.
Statistics show that abuse often escalates within the first two years after separation — in fact, up to 75 percent of women murdered by their abusers are killed during that time. "Leaving an abusive or violent partner can be dangerous and complicated. It's important as a friend to listen and support the person in an abusive situation. They have to make their own decisions but, you can help by letting them know they do not deserve the behavior and it is not their fault. Encourage them to seek help from an accredited domestic violence agency — in Erie that agency is SafeNet. SafeNet can help with free and confidential resources such as counseling, legal services, safe housing options, and safety planning," said Young. Since the app's inception, it has been downloaded more than 4,600 times and opened more than 10,500 times. SafeNet is Erie's only accredited domestic violence agency and has a hotline 24/7 at (814) 454-8161.
Common warning signs of abusive relationships
Abusers go to great lengths to control their victim, their interactions, and everyday life. Common indicators of abuse include:
- Name-calling or demeaning comments
- Someone that seems too good to be true early in a relationship; the relationship may advance very quickly
- Frequent phone calls or texts
- Threats to harm or kill you, your pet(s), or family members
- Blaming you for the abusive behavior; not taking responsibility for actions
- Preventing you from spending time with family or friends and from enjoying hobbies and other activities
- Damaging your credit by exceeding limits, purposely not paying bills, etc; restricting your access to financial resources
Common warning signs that someone you know may be in an abusive situation:
- Their partner puts them down in front of other people
- They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
- They make excuses for their partner's behavior
- Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
- They have unexplained marks or injuries
- They've stopped spending time with friends and family
- They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality
Source: Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Amy VanScoter is a registered yoga teacher at School House Yoga and a wellness program coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.