New consent apps aim to combat campus rape


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Two smartphone apps have recently been submitted to Apple that would seek to firmly establish signs of consent and clear up questions surrounding consent in rape and sexual assault allegations.

These apps are designed mainly for use on college campuses, due to the high numbers of sexual assaults and rapes reported in those areas.

Todd Corley, a captain for Appalachian State University Police, said he believes the high number of cases on college campuses is due to the small community environment.

“With the majority of sexual assaults that we have, it’s not some stranger,” Corley said. “It’s more often than not a close acquaintance or a date rape situation.”

The pair of apps, both of which were created by Michael Lissack, would consist of a “Yes” app named WE-CONSENT and a “No” app named WHAT-ABOUT-NO. Both apps would essentially serve as official record of consent to sexual activity.

Lissack said they would help somebody clearly state whether they give consent or not.

“What is needed is a way for affirmative consent to be recorded and stored as potential exculpatory evidence,” Lissack said. “Creating a record serves several mutually beneficial purposes. It provides a much-needed mechanism for sharing intentions and requesting permission. It offers a new clear opportunity to say ‘no.’”

Not only will the apps help people firmly state they do not consent to sexual advances, they can also be used to clear the air in court.

“If there is a record of consent, that record can be used to rebut a claim based on changed minds or next day regrets,” Lissack said.

The WHAT-ABOUT-NO app will have a free and premium version. The free version summons a video recording of a police officer sternly repeating that the person has said “no.”

The premium version goes a step further than just giving a warning. It records a video of the person watching the message and sends it to the cloud and off-line servers. After that, the videos can only be viewed by law enforcement, upon judicial order or as evidence in a university disciplinary proceeding. The premium version would cost $5.99 per year.

Lissack acknowledges the WHAT-ABOUT-NO apps aren’t foolproof.

“It isn’t perfect,” Lissack said. “If [the offender is] drunk, excessively violent, or just already intent on rape, it will do nothing. If the person has any sense of sanity, it acts as a strong reinforcement.”

The WE-CONSENT app also creates a video that can only be viewed in judicial settings.  With it, the user states their name, states their partner’s name, then points the camera at their partner and themselves, and each states their consent. The WE-CONSENT app will be available for $2.99 per year.

“Consent should be clear for everyone,” Lissack said. “No one should allow false accusations to happen.”

To avoid tampering or privacy invasions, Lissack stressed the videos would be inaccessible to anyone other than law enforcement or campus disciplinary boards.

“Not even the phone’s owner would be able to retrieve the video after it’s been encrypted,” said Lissack, who is also working on an app for situations where one partner changes their mind.

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are prevalent issues on campuses across the nation, and Appalachian State University is no different.

Corley said eight sexual assaults and 11 “forced fondlings” were reported on campus during the 2014 calendar year, though he believes the actual number is much higher.

“It’s probably one of the more underreported crimes on college campuses, both here and nationwide,” Corley said. “A lot of it has to do with the traits and characteristics of victimization.”

The WHAT-ABOUT-NO app will be available for purchase for iPhone no later than April 1, but the WE-CONSENT app is currently being worked on and there’s no timetable for when it should become available. The apps are expected to be available for Android in six to eight weeks.

“The mere fact that people have this app changes the discussion,” Lissack said. “It can act as an insurance policy or safety measure, should you need it.”

STORY: Thomas Culkin, News Reporter