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D.C. launches app for reporting sexual assault

Thursday - 8/15/2013, 9:57am  ET

WASHINGTON - Smartphone technology is being applauded as the latest answer to connecting victims of sexual assault to the help they need.

D.C. launched a free app Wednesday called ASK DC, which assembles 33 assault-response resources, like medical care and counseling, into one place.

"It's really geared towards 18- to 35-year-olds who use their smartphones for everything that they do," says Melissa Hook, director of D.C.'s Justice Grants Administration.

The ASK DC app expands on a previous effort, U ASK DC, which targeted the District's college and university students. It launched last September.

"The point is to provide immediate and effective access to resources that are confidential and have those resources be comprehensive," Hook says.

Reflective of the city, the resources are available in English, Spanish, French, Amharic, American Sign Language and 22 Asian languages.

Officials say reports of sexual abuse may spike, but that doesn't necessarily reflect an increase in crime.

"Sexual assaults and intimate partner violence are largely underreported," says Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham.

"If you look at any national studies, they indicate that almost as many as 50 percent of our victims don't report their crimes," he says.

Aside from prosecuting the offender, the advantage of reporting abuse is that it provides access to services, Newsham says.

For example, victims can get a full medical forensic exam free of charge.

The app is compatible with BlackBerry, Apple and Android devices.

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