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App Helps Victims Of Domestic Violence Find Help And Document Abuse

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
The Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh now offers an app that can help women find a safe place to go.

Often the most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is the moment they decide to leave an abuser. An app from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh can help people make a plan to get away and find a safe place to go.

The center launched the RUSafe app in 2014 as a way to connect domestic violence victims with help hotlines, advocates and shelters. It also included a self-assessment, asking questions about physical abuse and violence at the hands of partners to determine if people are in an unsafe situation.

Version 2.0 went live this month and includes new capabilities, like the ability to journal and log photos.

“Being able to take a photo, a photo of a bruise, a photo of broken dishes, and to date log them and send them off,” said Kathy Marecic, RUSafe coordinator at the Women’s Center. “When you’re in front of a lawyer or you’re trying to … prepare yourself for court, rather than recall ‘I think it was three weeks ago,’ you actually have documentation that’s dated. Pictures that are dated, the bruises are still there, the dishes broken are still there, the wall punched is visual.”

An event celebrating the launch of the new app will take place Wednesday evening at Alloy 26 on the North Side.

The new version is available in English, Spanish and Nepali and also includes a survey for those who believe their friends or family members are at risk. Marecic said sometimes it takes someone else to intervene to make a victim realize they are in an abusive relationship.

“Deep down inside I truly believe this is a life-saving app, that there are women being saved via the app,” she said.

The women’s center worked with local consulting firm Aspirant on the app. So far, it’s been downloaded 2,600 times and has connected 300 victims with shelters in all 50 states.

Aspirant President Mike McClaine said the company developed the free app at no charge to the women’s shelter.

“We firmly believe this is the right thing to do,” McClaine said.

The company has developed a similar app in the United Kingdom, and plans to do a national campaign promoting RUSafe this fall.

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.
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