Eric Wang

After a night out on High Street or getting a bacon, egg and cheese at Good Nature Market, some Yale students use the mobile application LiveSafe as a way to receive a ride back home or request a walking escort. But what most do not know is that members of the Yale community can also use the app to connect anonymously with Yale resources regarding sexual misconduct and assault.

LiveSafe is an app that provides Yale students and faculty members on campus with an effective way to communicate with various Yale resources, like the Yale Police Department, the SHARE Center, the Office for Equal Opportunity Programs and the Title IX office. Since the start of this semester, the Yale College Council has been trying to improve LiveSafe and raise more awareness surrounding its features related to sexual misconduct and assault. The student government has pioneered an initiative to bring the app to computers and clarify its language.

“No one knew about LiveSafe, and no one knew how to use LiveSafe,” said YCC Student Life Director Grace Kang ’21.

YCC President Saloni Rao ’20 and Kang said that in the past year, many student activist groups on campus have been pushing for an anonymous reporting platform for victims of sexual misconduct. According to the report, recent events on campus regarding Yale’s overall sexual climate motivated the YCC to convene a focus group on sexual assault training and reporting resources during the fall semester.

But after entering discussions about the issue, the YCC discovered that this platform already existed, a fact they explained as representative of the lack of awareness about sexual misconduct resources. According to the focus group, resources for victims of sexual misconduct were available but the majority of the student body did not have sufficient knowledge of them.

Kang said that since LiveSafe is a strictly mobile app, many students without cell phones do not have access to its features. Rao added that most students with cell phones do not have the app downloaded in the first place. Rao and Kang said that at a a Title IX steering committee meeting, they were told that the Title IX Office receives barely any reports of sexual misconduct from the app, and that the Yale Office for Equal Opportunity Programs receives almost no reports at all from LiveSafe.

While the YPD has been open with statistics on students’ usage of the police functions of the app, the Title IX office has declined to offer any detailed statistics regarding how many students use the Title IX feature of LiveSafe, Kang said. Stephanie Spangler, the University Title IX coordinator, declined to release the statistics to the News.

“We know that there is a demand for reporting anonymously instances of sexual misconduct and the fact that they’re not getting any -— there’s a disconnect there,” Rao said.

In accordance with some of the recommendations made by the focus group, the YCC has attempted to create a desktop version of LiveSafe and clarify the language and format of these features. Kang emphasized that many students want a desktop version because of its relative ease of use compared to the “convoluted” nature of the LiveSafe app. Kang added that in order to connect with Yale resources within the app, students have to make an account, log in and figure out which buttons to push, while a desktop version could simplify the process.

Rao added that a desktop version would require a link, which would make raising awareness about the resource much easier. However, much of the YCC’s desktop initiative has been met with resistance, Rao said. Since LiveSafe is a third-party company that currently functions solely as a mobile app, Rao said that the YCC has looked into other vendors to provide this service. But the Yale administration wants to continue with the LiveSafe app. Rao emphasized that many students associate the LiveSafe app with the YPD,  which “acts as a deterrent” to students who want to make anonymous reports of sexual misconduct. Yale’s main page for the LiveSafe app strictly describes its safety features, with no mention of its sexual misconduct reporting function.

“It has a stigma of being affiliated with the police and law enforcement, and that’s something some victims of sexual misconduct, especially ones who would want to report anonymously, would want to avoid,” Rao said.

Rao added that during first-year orientation, the YPD gave a presentation on the LiveSafe app and did not reference LiveSafe’s sexual misconduct features at all. Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd, who runs the Office of Gender and Campus Culture, said that they “did not have time this past fall to add much about the new communication network.” In the future, Boyd and Rao said that they plan to include more extensive training materials on these features specifically.

While Rao said that the YCC has met resistance to the desktop initiative from Yale’s administration, Boyd said that they have “asked [LiveSafe] if they might develop one.”

“I think there’s a good amount of administrative resistance to moving LiveSafe to a desktop, because they don’t want to newly and freshly encourage anonymous instances of sexual misconduct because it is maybe more difficult to follow up with people,” Rao said.

Part of LiveSafe’s usefulness, Rao added, is that it allows for two-way communication between Yale resources and the complainant. A student who anonymously connects to a Yale resource is assigned a number that allows Yale staff to follow up with them afterwards. But the benefits of this unique feature, Rao emphasized, have discouraged Yale administration from looking into other third-party platforms.

“Too often, anonymous systems are one-way, making it impossible to ask follow-up questions or offer a response. Two-way communication, such as that enabled by LiveSafe, makes it much easier to address individual needs and community safety,” Boyd said.

For now, Kang said that she has worked with Jason Killheffer, the senior deputy Title IX coordinator, to improve the language of the LiveSafe app. Beforehand, she said, even finding the place to contact the Title IX office or the SHARE Center on the app had been difficult. Although she added that the exact date of the project’s unveiling has not been confirmed by the Title IX Office, she said that it should be released “very, very soon.”

Kang added that the LiveSafe app does not provide students with a way to anonymously connect with the Title IX office either. Anonymous communication is disabled for Title IX and discrimination/harassment but is permissible for the SHARE Center. Still, Spangler said messages sent to the Title IX Office through LiveSafe are treated confidentially and can only be seen by Spangler and her immediate staff.

“Individuals may correspond anonymously through LiveSafe to the SHARE Center and, if they wish, may request that their message be conveyed to the Title IX office,” Spangler said.

Students can contact the SHARE center at any time through their hotline at (203) 432-2000.

Alayna Lee | alayna.lee@yale.edu