A conversation with Sharyn Potter of Prevention Innovations Research Center

Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Hand holding smarphone with uSafeUS app open

UNH tops national rankings for campus safety year after year, but like any college, it’s not immune to instances of sexual violence. UNH is also home to Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC), a national leader in creating evidence-based strategies to improve bystander intervention and prevent sexual and relationship violence. PIRC’s executive director of research Sharyn Potter, who is also a professor of women’s and gender studies, describes the uSafeUS® app, a tool that lives where students do: on their smartphones.


What is the uSafeUS® app, and what issue does it aim to address?

uSafeUS® is trauma- and research-informed, and it is the only campus safety app currently available that provides both sexual violence prevention and post-violence response features to support survivors and connect students with on-and off-campus resources 24/7. Campus sexual assault rates have not changed in over three decades, unfortunately.

UNH researcher Sharyn Pottier
Sharyn Potter. Photo by Jeremy Gasowski.

What are some of the most powerful features of the app?

Students continue to tell us that they want to be able to leave an uncomfortable situation without making a scene. In fact, the ideas for and development of the uSafeUS® features Time to LeaveTM and Angel Drink came from New Hampshire students. Time to LeaveTM lets students send themselves a simulated text or phone call, providing an excuse to leave an uncomfortable situation. Angel Drink offers a discreet way for students to notify a bartender or wait staff that help is needed. Students tell us both features give them a valid excuse to leave a problematic or potentially dangerous situation.

From your research, what’s the most important message for returning college students about preventing interpersonal violence?

The research continues to show that when college students are sexually assaulted, they are more likely to disclose to a friend or roommate rather than a campus official. Therefore, peers need to know how to help a friend with empathy and support. Our goal with uSafeUS® is to help prevent assaults where possible, and to put trauma-informed information directly into the hands of students and those who support them at the exact moment they are needed.

For more information, contact Sharyn Potter.