Hobart and William Smith Colleges are among the first three higher education institutions to partner with Circle of 6, a free smart phone application designed to help prevent sexual violence by quickly connecting users in potentially dangerous situations to friends and safety resources.
“What’s great about this app is that it gives students options in the moment,” says Sarah Feldman ’15, who over the past several months has been coordinating the implementation of the app with Tempe Newson ’11, assistant to the associate vice president for student affairs & dean of students.
“The Colleges have some great programs for sexual assault education and prevention and aftercare, but unlike prevention programs, Circle of 6 is an option for right now, literally in the palm of your hand,” Feldman says.
The name of the app refers to the six friends each user can add to his or her group, or “circle.” Designed to be fast, easy-to-use and private, the app offers several standard, preprogrammed features that keep users connected to each other. The features, represented by a series of icons, send messages to the user’s circle if the user needs a safe ride home, information, or immediate assistance. Once the app is set up, it only takes a user four clicks to send these messages, increasing accessibility to communication.
In 2011, Circle of 6 won the White House/Health and Human Services Apps Against Abuse Technology Challenge, and now has more than 100,000 users in 32 countries.
The new Circle of 6U, introduced in 2014, expands the original features to connect students to each other and to university resources in an attempt further reduce and prevent instances of rape and sexual assault on campuses.
Beyond the standard features, the HWS Circle of 6U app offers HWS-specific, local, and national resources that can connect users with the Counseling Center, the Geneva Police Department, Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes, and more. The app also includes links to informational websites on and off campus.
With the Circle of 6 analytics service, anonymous aggregate data about the app’s usage is sent to the Colleges to bolster campus safety, while also ensuring that all user information remains confidential.
“Aggregate data is sent-so the school won’t know who sent the text-about what time the app was used, by how many students, and where, so the Colleges can use the data and create safer spaces, or decide where to make campus safety a stronger presence,” Feldman explains.
Students and representatives from the Office of Student Affairs will be tabling in Scandling Campus Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. between Jan. 20 and 23 and Jan. 26 and 30 to help students download and set up the app on their phones.