Wilmington-based company launches streamlined smartphone system to help sexual assault victims

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The Seek Then Speak interface allows users to choose web, mobile, text or multilingual automated phone ways to communicate. (Photo Benjamin Schachtman)
The Seek Then Speak interface allows users to choose web, mobile, text or multilingual automated phone ways to communicate. (Photo by Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON – April is sexual assault awareness month and a locally based technology company is doing its part to aid victims. The company will release a new state-of-the art system aimed at reducing barriers to reporting and responding to sexual assault.

Ten8Tech, a tech company headquartered in Wilmington, plans to debut introduce “Victim Link” and “Seek Then Speak” next week.

Seek Then Speak is a “victim-focused portal,” which allows victims of sexual assault to access information, report assaults and request counseling or treatment while remaining anonymous. Victim Link allows law enforcement, colleges and advocacy agencies access to requests from victims.

According to Ten8Tech President and CEO Anthony Formhalls, a former police officer, the two systems work together to provide a “start to finish” system to provide anonymity when it’s beneficial, police response when it’s necessary and transparency throughout.

Formhalls said the Seek Then Speak utilizes the modern mode of communication to break down barriers to reporting sexual assaults.

“This is the way much of our world communicates, especially younger people,” Formhalls. “If people prefer a text to a phone conversation with a friend, how are they going to feel when it comes to a tragic and serious conversation about sexual assault?”

The Seek Then Speak interface allows users to choose a smartphone app, web-based or automated phone and text options. Ten8Tech’s multilingual system guides Seek Then Speak through an automated conversation guided by best-practices developed by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI).

While it might sound cold, even inhumane, to subject the victim of a sexual assault to an automated program, Formhalls says research cited by EVAWI in developing its best practices indicates that when reported an assault to another person, only 5 to 20 percent of men and women report incidents. The goal of Ten8Tech’s program, Formalls said, is to increase that number.

“In many cases, we’ve seen people who have had their stories doubted or even denied, those people are incredibly unlikely to report future assaults,” Formhalls said. “In some cases, victims simply aren’t ready to talk to anyone. It’s difficult for people to go into these conversations without knowing what they’re facing. Seek Then Speak allows people to find out, ‘what will it be like if I submit to a forensic exam?’ or ‘what should I expect if I file charges with the police.’ Allowing them to have that conversation with the sense of safety and anonymity gives them the information to take the next steps.”

That next step is Victim Link. According to Formhalls, the agency-side of the system allows a school like to UNCW to be notified of an incident – but only when a victim is ready. A user can choose to notify their college, or law-enforcement, but they can also skip these steps and be connected with a victim advocacy group.

“The idea is to let the user get all the information they want, or need, and keep control of what information goes out,” Formhalls sent. “We’re hoping to empower people and break the cycle of violence.”

The mains goals of Victim Link, according to Fromhalls, is to make agency response quick, transparent and accountable. Ten8Tech is set to officially debut their new programs at EVAWI’s Orlando conference next Tuesday, April 18.