App gauges relationship danger

Intimate partner violence? Yes, there's an app for that.

Intimate partner violence? Yes, there's an app for that.

The One Love Foundation, named for University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love, beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend, has created a smart phone and computer application that can help women gauge whether they are in a dangerous relationship.

It was released this month along with a public service advertisement that shows people watching while a jealous, angry guy roughs up a girl inside a plexiglass version of a dorm room. They watch unmoved until one young woman throws her phone and the walls of the room shatter.

Love, who grew up in Cockeysville, was just about to graduate in May 2010 when a jealous and drunken George Huguely V confronted her in her off-campus apartment and beat her, leaving her in a pool of her own blood.

He was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison, a judgment that is being reviewed by the Virginia Supreme Court at this time.

The PSA and the app come at domestic violence two ways. The PSA shames those of us who witness such violence — or know of it — and refuse to get involved. It also provides a way to assess your relationship and whether it is dangerous. It is the dark twin of the Cosmo quiz — "20 ways to tell if he is into you."

The application walks the user through a series of questions and then generates a "score," and advice about what to do next. Then it "disappears," so an angry partner can't see the results and can't see that you have been searching for information on domestic violence. Users of the app who score at higher risk levels are advised to seek professional help.

The app also contains a "safety plan" for college women to fill out. It requires them to put down on paper what they will do to keep themselves safe in their dorms and on campus. When you have to write things down, they become more real.

But it also has a checklist for someone with children who is living with an abuser. It helps her organize herself in case she has to leave quickly.

The app was developed with the help of two researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Jacquelyn Campbell and Nancy Glass, and it is based on more than 25 years of research.

The 20-question "danger assessment" is instructive on its own. It asks the obvious questions about physical violence. But it also inquires about circumstances that could make violence more likely: Is he out of work? Do you have a child that is not his? Is there a history of drugs or is he a problem drinker? Does he try to control your daily activities, such trips to the mall or what friends you can meet?

Users of the application are asked if their partner has ever threatened them with a weapon, of course, but it also asks if the partner makes them feel unsafe or controlled.

It can be difficult to see from inside a relationship whether the dynamics between two people are normal or not. The fact that the application delivers a concrete score and a quantifiable assessment makes it easier for the user to recognize how much trouble they face.

"The most serious outcome of intimate partner violence is intimate partner homicide," the app says. "The score you will see is based on years of research that identified which risk factors are most common when abusive relationships lead to deadly violence.

"Keep in mind that your level of danger can change quickly. Watch for signs of danger and believe your gut. If it feels scary to you, be scared and get help."

The video of the elevator incident between Baltimore Raven Ray Rice and his then-fiancée Janay, during which he hit her so hard he knocked her out, made domestic violence — so secret in so many homes — horrifyingly vivid.

The One Love Foundation, founded by Yeardley's mother, Sharon, and her sister, Lexi, is giving young women important tools to keep them safe — and demanding accountability from the rest of us.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.

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