Administration launches “Apps Against Abuse” technology challenge to help address sexual assault and dating violence

National competition will challenge developers to create software applications that empower young adults to intervene and prevent sexual violence

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Vice President Joe Biden, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius launched the “Apps Against Abuse” technology challenge – a national competition to develop an innovative software application, or “app,” that provides young adults with tools to help prevent sexual assault and dating violence. “Just as technology is changing the way young people communicate with each other every day, it’s also changing the way young people can protect themselves and their friends from becoming victims of sexual violence,” said Vice President Biden. “This challenge is a chance to empower a new generation to take a stand against violence.”

Young women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while one in five will be a victim of sexual assault during college. Many of these assaults occur when the offender, often an acquaintance, has targeted and isolated a young woman in vulnerable circumstances. Through the “Apps Against Abuse” challenge, developers will be charged with creating an easy-to-use application that provides a targeted way for young women to designate trusted friends, allies, or emergency contacts and provide a means for checking-in with these individuals in real-time, particularly in at-risk situations. The winning application will also provide quick access to resources and information on sexual assault and teen dating violence, as well as where to go for help. “Everyone has a role to play in the prevention of violence and abuse,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who spent years volunteering with victims of domestic violence.

“This application can be another way to encourage young women and men to take an active role in the prevention of dating violence and sexual assault.” "We want to tap into the creativity of the American people to empower women who wish to communicate distress in a trusted and immediate way," said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra.

“HHS is honored to launch this challenge with the Office of the Vice President and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop innovative tools to help young adults prevent and combat domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at HHS. “We are excited to see what innovators across the nation will do to harness the power of technology to help young adults prevent domestic violence and sexual abuse." For more than 20 years, Vice President Biden has led the fight to combat violence against women. As the author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, then-Senator Biden exposed high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking experienced by women every day in this country. Yet in spite of the significant progress made since the passage of VAWA, the threat of violence and abuse continues for a new generation of women.

In April, the Vice President introduced comprehensive guidance with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault. HHS also plays a key role in the federal government's overall strategy to help prevent and stop violence and sexual assault. These efforts are designed both to reduce this violence and to ensure that those suffering from domestic violence have access to information and emergency assistance. The “Apps Against Abuse” challenge furthers federal efforts to increase support for victims of sexual assault and abuse and create innovative and targeted ways to bring about change. The use of challenges offers new ideas to address the agency’s mission, and helps to create a more transparent, participatory and collaborative government. The “Apps Against Abuse” challenge is sponsored by HHS and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Additional information and submission guidelines are available at The winner of the challenge will be announced in October 2011.

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