The desperate reality of domestic abuse
The yelling is starting again. That same fear is bubbling up inside. You don’t know what to do. You’re in your own home; the place where you’re supposed to be protected from the world, yet you constantly feel trapped inside it. A feeling of terror and helplessness goes through your body. What do you do now?
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every year more than 10 million women and men experience domestic violence in the United States. Victims of domestic violence often find that the person who is supposed to care for them the most is often the one causing them the most mental and physical pain. Sadly, they often don’t know to whom to turn for help.
Aspirant announces expanded domestic abuse campaign
On November 6, Aspirant announced an expanded campaign to directly impact the domestic abuse problem. As part of the announcement, Aspirant President Mike McClaine stated, “Our company has historically been passionate about the prevention of domestic abuse. As we work to grow our business impact, we are also determined to expand our social impact as well. That led to us concentrating our efforts on the prevention of domestic abuse".
Aspirant kicked off its upweighted campaign with a meeting on November 13 at its headquarters in Nova Place to introduce our strategy to key Pittsburgh business and community leaders. Our goal is to ensure that our program has the greatest impact possible, so we asked these leaders to help shape our strategy and provide input on a series of related events and opportunities to support this critical cause. In addition to having leaders from major businesses around the city, we were proud to have leaders from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WC&S), and the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania at the initial meeting.
At the meeting, McClaine and Aspirant’s Client Engagement Manager Kristen Gabrielli introduced the strategy behind our domestic abuse cause and explained Aspirant's history with it, and then Sergeant Eric Kroll from the Pittsburgh Police, as well as Nicole Molinaro Karaczun, WC&S' Chief Program Officer, were next to speak. They provided stories, background, and statistics around the severity of domestic abuse and its local and national impact. We then received personal experiences and feedback from the group overall on our strategy and tactics, including developing an intervention program for children and adolescents, raising awareness of the signs of domestic abuse, and increasing support within companies through HR. We will be reviewing these suggestions and much more in the coming weeks as we solidify our strategy for 2018.
How our commitment to prevent domestic abuse began
In 2014, the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, which has provided safety, shelter, support, and guidance to victims of domestic violence for more than 40 years, approached our company to create a mobile application that asks a series of questions and sends out a distress signal when the user is unsafe. The organization and subject matter felt very close to home for founder Rick Newton, whose mother directly experienced the effects of domestic abuse. Aspirant quickly agreed to help design and create what is now called the “RUSafe” app.
“As part of our core values, our company believes in giving back to the community, particularly to help those who are unable or challenged to help themselves,” said Newton. “To be able to put our skills to work developing this application to reach and offer immediate help to those whose lives are at risk is truly a humbling opportunity".
How the RUSafe app works
Director of Technology and Mobile Services, Phil Kossler, led the creation of the RUSafe app, which works by assessing the potential for domestic violence and harm in a dangerous relationship. The potentially at-risk person is asked a few simple questions about the relationship. Next, RUSafe helps them understand the possible threats they may face and connects them with nearby emergency shelters and domestic violence hotlines using GPS technology.
RUSafe’s algorithm is built on the Maryland Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), which draws upon the experiences of hundreds of domestic abuse survivors, allowing the app to identify key signals of intimate partner violence. WC&S also conducted focus groups with domestic violence survivors for three months to gather feedback before launching RUSafe.
Working with William Gay of the Pittsburgh Steelers to promote the app
At the time of the app’s release in 2015, Pittsburgh Steelers’ cornerback William Gay, whose mother had been killed as a result of domestic abuse, got the team involved to help spread the word about the app, including video development and website promotions. When speaking about the issue, Gay notably said: “I honor my mother and use her voice in this national call to action. Each life we save means hers was not taken in vain”.
Preventing domestic abuse in the United Kingdom
Based on the knowledge and experience gained through the RUSafe app development process, Aspirant is also partnering with Hestia, a London charity “working together with adults and children to change their lives at the times when they most need support”. This project, led by UK-based Aspirant consultant Navneet Bhatia, involves developing a more advanced version of Hestia’s own domestic abuse prevention app, “Bright Sky”.
Building on progress
The RUSafe app has made a strong impact to date:
- 4,508: the number of times RUSafe has been opened across all 50 states.
- 1,571: the number of contacts made through RUSafe to 552 shelters in all 50 states.
- 1,560: the number of 24-hour hotlines available through RUSafe.
- 339: the number of calls made to 65 shelters in 29 states.
More importantly, we are now planning to build on our progress to create an even greater impact in the future. Our upcoming plans will include a large-scale safety event in summer 2018 and an enhanced version of the U.S. app with expanded safety components and additional features.
At Aspirant, we are compassionate toward those who need our support the most, and we are determined to help keep our community safe. Keep an eye out for information about our upcoming fundraising and awareness events in 2018. If you are interested in helping prevent domestic abuse and contributing to our overall efforts, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kristen Gabrielli at email@example.com.