New tool developed for student survivors of sexual assault

By

Lauren Whitby

MyChoice, an internet-based decision aid that provides clear, unbiased information to Arizona State University student survivors of sexual assault, is scheduled for field testing during the 2019-20 academic year. 

The Digital Humanities Initiative at ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research supported an interdisciplinary collaboration to design the new tool.

MyChoice will help student survivors make informed decisions based on the options available to them, such as pursing administrative and criminal justice, seeking care and support or getting involved in advocacy efforts.

“Knowing who to contact or where to go after experiencing a sexual assault can be confusing and overwhelming, and simply having access to information isn’t always helpful, because not all survivors share the same values and preferences surrounding justice and care,” said Michelle Villegas-Gold, University Innovation Fellow at ASU.

“With MyChoice, students can safely and confidentially explore those options that are relevant to them, evaluate their values and preferences surrounding each one and get the help that they need without having to find or look up anything themselves,” she said. 

Villegas-Gold has worked with victims of sexual assault for over 14 years. She worked with a steering committee, including counselors, forensic nurses, victim advocates, student support specialists and student survivors of sexual assault, to co-create MyChoice.

The steering committee provided input in developing, editing and testing the tool, and chose everything from color schemes to language to delivery methods.

Dharmin Dholiya, a graduate student in computer science who is coding MyChoice into a mobile-friendly website and smartphone app, is thankful for the opportunity to collaborate on such an important project. 

“I cannot think of any better project than this that I can apply my technical skills and knowledge to help other people,” he said. “That’s what my goal has been from the start of my bachelor’s, to apply my technical skills and knowledge to make a product that helps people and society.”

Elizabeth Grumbach, assistant director of the Institute for Humanities Research and Digital Humanities Initiative Program Lead, coordinated the collaboration between Villegas-Gold and Dholiya as part of the Initiative’s goal to facilitate place-based, public digital humanities projects.

Dholiya, who is scheduled to graduate May 2019, says his work on this project was instrumental in helping him get a job. He is planning to start as a software development engineer at Amazon in July 2019.

If MyChoice is successful during the field test, the team hopes it can be made available to mroe students and secondhand survivors, such as teachers, parents and friends, in fall 2020.

Villegas-Gold is proud to be a part of a project that creates an innovative solution through interdisciplinary research.

“I hope MyChoice will demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary collaboration and co-creation, and serve as an example for what it means to be No. 1 in innovation,” she said.

RELATED: ASU's LiveSafe mobile app and sexual violence awareness and response website