Smartphone app aims to protect students from assaults
A new smartphone app meant to help students protect themselves from sexual assaults on college campuses is expanding to MSU.
The BlueLight app was created last April and allows users to contact police quickly if they feel they are in danger. Since its inception, the app has been picked up by nearly 200 universities across the country.
The app consists of two buttons. One sends the user’s name and location to the local 911 dispatch, and the other alerts emergency contacts that their loved one is in danger.
The push to introduce the app to campus comes on the tail end of four alleged sexual assaults in East Lansing that occurred between March 30 and May 16.
Another dangerous incident occurred Sept. 14 on campus when a man came out of the bushes and grabbed an 18-year-old student near the intersection of Shaw Lane and Akers Road. He fled the scene after she sprayed him with pepper spray, according to MSU police.
BlueLight creator Preet Anand said the app allows users to get help in fewer steps than it would take to contact police directly and potentially prevent sexual assault. He’s enabled the app to work in and around MSU’s campus, but does not have an official contract with MSU police at this time.
Anand learned firsthand how many people are affected by sexual assault when he was a college student at Santa Clara University in 2006 — and he didn’t like what he heard.
“I heard the statistic that one in four females will become victims of sexual assault by the time they graduate college,” Anand said. “To think that one (in) four would have that kind of trauma is ridiculous. It did not sit well with me then, and it does not sit well with me now.”
The MSU Police Department does not yet have a contract with BlueLight, but police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said the app could provide an extra level of reassurance for students.
“It’s just another safety measure right there on their phone,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “They can carry it with them and notify authorities to get there.”
As a victim of sexual assault, prenursing sophomore Jessica Dziubinski said it’s important for students to be aware of their surroundings and know how to respond to an attack.
“A lot of people have the mentality that, ‘It’s not gonna happen to me, I’ll be safe,’ when really it can happen to anyone,” Dziubinski said.
Anand said data shows that people are using the app the most between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. at eight-minute intervals on average.
“That tells me that someone is walking home to their car or to their dorm with the app open and their finger hovering over the button,” Anand said. “I think I can count that as success.”