Tech startup seeks to help survivors report abuse | REES

News Room

October 2022

WRITTEN BY: Selene San Felice

Tech startup seeks to help survivors report abuse

A Canadian tech company wants to transform the way people report abuse and assault in Tampa Bay and around the world.

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

What’s happening: REES Community founder Mary Lobson is trying to anchor her company in the area through the Tampa Bay Wave’s new TechDiversity Accelerator cohort.

Why it matters: More than two out of three sexual assaults are not reported to police in the U.S. and only about 20% of women in college report sexual assaults to authorities, according to national anti-sexual violence organization RAINN.

  • Lobson hopes to improve those reporting numbers with a streamlined system that survivors can trust and organizations can use to improve their reporting and response systems.
  • “We want to be able to gather the data and use that to inform change in these spaces,” she told Axios.

Background: Lobson was inspired by Callisto, a nonprofit project that allows people to anonymously report sexual assault and identify serial perpetrators.

How it works: REES (Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors) is an encrypted third-party platform for reporting assault, bullying, harassment and discrimination that can be tailored to the business, institution or group using it.

  • Reports can remain anonymous since they’re not linked to an email or account log in.
  • Reports can also be sent to multiple places at once, like to a Title IX reporting agency and campus security at a college, so survivors don’t have to keep repeating their stories.

Plus: The system can notify organizations of repeat perpetrators named across multiple reports.

  • “That’s going to go a long way to mitigating risk to institutions and to students and employees, and those actual costs related to sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Lobson said.

Details: The company, which started in 2019, has 28 customers in the U.S. and Canada, mostly in higher education institutions and sports organizations.

  • Joshua Tree Music Festival recently partnered with the platform for festival-goers, performers, staff and volunteers to create a record of “unwanted sexualized behaviors” to share with festival organizers.

What’s next: Lobson is hoping to expand the company throughout Tampa Bay and Florida. She’ll be vying for local partners and investors at the Wave’s TechDiversity Demo Day on Monday.

The bottom line: Lobson noted that while schools, businesses and organizations are putting more emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, they still need to account for the fact that harassment and assault aren’t going away.

  • “You can’t have inclusive and equitable environments if you’re not providing security for those people,” she said.

SOURCE: Axios Tampa Bay