Chayn is building the largest global collaborative resource for survivors of sexual assault
It’s time to fix some of the ways our systems fail to provide accurate, timely and sensitive information, support and record-keeping
Here at Chayn, we’re humbled and excited to announce we’re starting work on a groundbreaking initiative that will bring together the relevant laws, reporting procedures, contacts of front line services and supportive information for victims and survivors of sexual assault across the globe — under one roof. A web app which lets victims and survivors, irrespective of where they are and when the assault happened, access the information and support networks they need. For now, we’re calling it YANA (you are not alone).
Though most of this information exists already, the problem is that it exists in silos. Based on feedback from survivors and the lived experience of Chayn volunteers, we’ll be looking at these design challenges.
- Recognising what has happened — Rape culture means that it is often difficult for victims and survivors to come to terms with what has happened and feel safe to reach out for support. Providing supportive, culturally-sensitive information at the right time can make all the difference.
- Knowing where to go — Even in locations where emergency services are easy to access, survivors may not know exactly where and how to access them. This isn’t just about shelters, but also specialist sexual violence units, lawyers, therapists and digital services.
- Knowing procedures for reporting and how long they should take — It is incredibly daunting to report sexual assault to people in authority be it at school, work or at the police station. Having an understanding of what to expect should the survivor choose to report is critical which not only gives them the confidence to go through but also warns them if proper procedure is not followed.
- Recording and safekeeping what happened — After decades of blaming victims (especially women) for their assaults and calling them liars for not remembering details, we know now that traumatic experience can have a significant impact on memory, both short term and long-term. Providing a safe space to enter and save details of the incident could prove a key tool for later investigation and will save the survivor the trouble of repeating the same details to multiple authorities.
- Timeliness and 24 hours support — Survivors need access to information around the clock, not just during office hours.
- Knowing it isn’t your fault — Societal norms, victim blaming and gaslighting by perpetrators, family, public institutions and media all provide a mental and physical wall for survivors for speaking their truth and believing it wasn’t their fault. Access to supportive networks and information around these subjects, fears and mental wellbeing can be lifesaving.
- Getting support anywhere — Sexual assault is traumatic enough when it happens in a familiar environment, but if you’re travelling or in a foreign country for holiday, education or work then it can be that much harder to access support. Imagine having to find emergency services, understand local policies and procedures in another language on top of the trauma.
Our ambitions are big which is why this will be an open source and collaborative project. We want it to be owned and led by the brave civil rights activists and survivors who are fighting the good fight by changing laws, speaking up against injustice and even those who shy away from the limelight to quietly help women in their lives when such trauma happens. These are the real heroes and they’ve got the information and experience that could help others.
We’re not the first to use technology in this space. We will look at and learn from our friends and colleagues at Harassmap, Hollaback, Callisto and Sayfty — who have inspired us to take this path. We’re not looking to replicate existing solutions. This is about connecting them, signposting and picking up all the support survivors are supposed to identify and seek out by themselves.
To begin with, we’re going to pilot this with two countries, in partnership with national charities including the UK and India. Once we’ve rolled out the project for two countries, we will be able to open it up to other organisations who want to add information for their countries. By partnering with renowned charities and “validated” agencies, we ensure that only the best quality and accurate information makes it onto the platform. We plan to allow users to rate information and services for their usefulness. This rating won’t be public but will act as a red flag for what pieces of information should be taken down.
Since the code base will be open for the technical build platform (not the information users enter), it would also be possible for organisations to run their own versions and not integrate with the global app (though we would love it if they did both).
We’ll be documenting our learnings, insights and failures as we progress through this project but we believe it is important to reflect publicly on how we provide support for a complex issue.
Often, in the tech for good sector, there is a tendency to apply Silicon Valley-esque solution-ism (see this). In fact, what we’ve learned at Chayn in the past 6 years is that public policy, frontline services and charities must all be part of the wider change if “tech for good” products and digital services are to make a long-lasting impact.
We’re under no illusion of ‘solving’ the trauma that victims and survivors face. We just want to make it easier for them to find out what their options are, and who can help.
What’s coming next
We’re just getting started.
There are many ways you can get involved.
- If you’re a national charity or public service helping survivors of sexual assault in the UK and India, and you’re interested in collaborating with us, drop us an email at “team @ chayn.co”.
- Are you a funder who would be interested in funding this work? Get in touch with me.
- If you’re a survivor and want to share your experience, you can email us at “team @ chayn.co”.
- For staying in the loop for when the project launches, contributing information, testing the app as a survivor and taking part in the crowdfunding — sign up to our newsletter for this project here.