Phone app helps survivors evaluate post-rape services

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"iPhone cellphone apps"

DURBAN - A mobile phone application piloted in Pretoria last year could assist rape survivors in confidentially evaluating the assistance received from institutions meant to support them.

South Africa has high rates of sexual violence, with 51,895 cases of rape being reported to the South African Police Services in 2016, equivalent to 143 cases per day.

There are also known to be significant gaps in services to rape survivors and significant variations in practice.

The methodology and scope of the application was presented on the second day of the 8th South African Aids Conference being held at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Wednesday.

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Describing the app, Nomsa Mahlalela from the Foundation for Professional Development said that because it ran on USSD (for example: *000* 0000#), it required no installation and left no message trail should a shared phone be used.

The application also required no data due to its front-loading capacity.

It allowed survivors ratings on domains of satisfaction (staff, services, physical environment, information and advice) and the staff domain allowed the selection of services providers to rate (health, police, court).

“The study found a very high mobile phone coverage and significantly high access and personal ownership and use and high levels of familiarity with using USSD,” according to Mahlalela.

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Study participants showed a keen interest to participate in confidential surveys about quality of post rape care services received using the proposed USSD app, which provided quick feedback, according to Mahlalela.

The survey used 140 respondents from rape care centres in Tshwane District and Gauteng Province. Most of the respondent were between 18 and 29 and showed a high level of comfort using social media.

At the conclusion of the pilot study in July last year, the application was handed to the NPA for consideration and, according to Mahlalela, “it is now their responsibility”.