Locally developed app aims to help domestic violence victims

June 25, 2018 05:19 AM

One in three women and one in six men have experienced domestic abuse. This year, there have been at least four deaths related to domestic violence in the Rochester area.

A new app developed locally aims to provide resources for domestic violence victims and their doctors.

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For years, advocates have taken a criminal justice approach when it comes to helping victims and survivors, but now an app called RITa is looking at the problem from a public health angle. 

RITa, the app, was developed team of researchers and advocates at Rochester Institute of Technology's College of Health Science & Technology, University of Rochester Medical Center and Resolve of Greater Rochester (RESOLVE). The project was funded by Greater Rochester Health Foundation.

Caroline Easton, professor at RIT had already been studying how to use Avatars as virtual behavioral health coaches in the field of addiction & family violence. That research was a springboard for RITa.

“RITa illustrates how we can combine advancements in science and technology with art and design to make a real impact in our community and provide safety for those at risk for serious harm or injury," Easton said.

RITa will be in doctor's offices, and patients will use it as a part of their appointment. The app will show you a short video on how intimate partner violence impacts your health and then it will ask you a series of questions about your home life and relationships.

Depending on your answers, RITa will recommend resources for you that your doctor can help you access.

Allison O' Malley with RESOLVE of Greater Rochester says the app creates a new standard for screening patients for intimate partner abuse. She says this is a project more than two years in the making.

"Many victims look to their doctor or primary care physician for help much before they would call the police," O' Malley says. "We want them to know how to respond when a patient comes to them with a concern."

Nicole Trabold was a part of the team that developed this app, and she is actually the voice of RITa. Trabold sees this app making a big difference in our area.

"Medical providers have not always been part of the discussion in intervening and potentially preventing abuse and violence in relationships," Trabold says. "I think this is an important conduit in identifying people who are at risk, providing them the services that they need earlier."

Advocates also say people might feel more comfortable sharing what's happening with the app, instead of a real person.

Starting Friday, Rochester Regional Health Network will test RITa in offices throughout the area. When testing is complete, developers hope more health facilities will begin using RITa.


Kaci Jones

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