A Pittsburgh-made app now also helps educate family and friends of domestic violence victims

Learn how you can help spread the word about RUSafe to the people who need it on June 27.

Screenshots from version 2.0 of RUSafe

Screenshots from version 2.0 of RUSafe

Courtesy of Aspriant
MJ Slaby

Domestic abuse isn’t always obvious to friends and family, said Kathy Marecic, a volunteer with Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Maybe someone suddenly stops coming to family events or misses longstanding plans with friends.

An updated version of the Pittsburgh-made RUSafe app, which provides resources to those experiencing domestic violence, will now also teach bystanders about the signs of domestic abuse and how they can help.

RUSafe launched in 2014 after being spearheaded by the Women’s Center and Shelter and created by Aspirant, a Pittsburgh management consulting company that also made a U.K. version of the app, Brightsky, in 2015 and an app used by local police to gather data during domestic violence calls.

The original version of RUSafe was designed for survivors and included Danger Assessment questions to identify different types of abuse from physical to financial and emotional and used GPS to suggest nearby resources, shelters and hotline information. Since launching, it has been opened more than 5,600 total times in all 50 states and has been used to access resources and call 911, said Marecic, whose volunteer role is as the RUSafe coordinator.

Its new version will be available to download June 27 through iOS and Google Play and will include those features, as well as a journaling option where users can create a new, private email address to track what’s happening using text, audio or photos.

But it’s not just those experiencing domestic violence who don’t know where to turn, Marecic said, adding that often people know there’s a women’s shelter, but they don’t know how to reach out, about other resources, or how to create a safety plan.

That’s why Marecic is passionate about having an app to share information. Plus, she said, the app can be hidden or deleted after it’s used or people can ask a friend to access it for them.

The new version of the app will also help bystanders determine if someone could be experiencing domestic violence through a series of questions such as “Does your friend, family member or colleague constantly have to account for her whereabouts?”

Aspirant President Mike McClaine said the company created version 2.0 of RUSafe for free and worked with the women’s shelter on what improvements to make. Since creating the app, Aspirant has stayed active with domestic violence prevention through marketing, events and fundraising.

In order for the app to save lives, people need to hear about it in church, at the grocery store and other places in the community, said John Conroy, Aspirant’s marketing and communications manager.

That’s why its creators are hosting an event to create champions of the app.

On June 27, attendees will download RUSafe version 2.0, learn more about it, and get a toolkit to spread the word, including business cards and information that can be left at the doctor’s office, hair salon, or wherever people might need it. It’s a real, tangible way for people to get involved and spread the word to those who might need it, Marecic said.

Because one day, she said, she knows she’ll meet a person who will say RUSafe saved their life.

Learn about RUSafe to champion domestic abuse prevention

Attend to learn about RUSafe, a free app that includes information and resources for people experiencing domestic abuse, as well as their friends and family. You'll leave with ways to help spread the word such as flyers, business cards and more. The event includes drinks, appetizers and two Live Nation lawn tickets to select concerts for attendees. There are two sessions — 5-6:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. RSVP to attend.

Where: Alloy 26 at 100 South Commons, Suite #102 (Allegheny Center)

When: June 27, 2018 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

How much: Free