Scripps seniors develop web app for survivors of sexual violence

Diana Arreola SC ’19 and Monica Acosta SC ’19 helped develop “I’m With Them,” a web app that connects victims of sexual violence. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

After spending the summer working on a web app that connects victims of sexual assault to each other, two Scripps College seniors finally got to see I’m With Them come to fruition when it was launched in January.

I’m With Them was developed by Diana Arreola SC ’19 and Monica Acosta SC ’19 through an eponymous nonprofit founded by Laurie Girand, a Harvey Mudd College trustee. According to the organization’s website, I’m With Them aims to “reduce work-related sexual misconduct by privately connecting victims who have the same perpetrator.” The app is not a method for reporting sexual assaults.

Girand said she developed the app to record patterns of behavior among sexual perpetrators when she noticed how accusations of sexual assault against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar were initially treated as individual incidents.

Arreola and Acosta, who both major in computer science at HMC, were hired “to code the website from the ground up,” Girand wrote in an email to TSL.

They were also responsible for the overall architecture, evaluating vendors for authentication and billing, choosing the hosting platform and engaging with users that provided feedback, according to Girand.

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Both Acosta and Arreola had previously worked together at the Motley Coffeehouse, and had taken the same software development class, Acosta said.

“They brought a unique perspective and they brought a generational perspective that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Girand said. “The world is changing so fast, the way that college students perceive information, the way they perceive social media, the way they handle those things, is entirely different.”

According to Acosta, the seniors began working with back-end development, before others joined the team. Acosta then moved to creating the front pages and exterior of the website.

“We were giving a lot of input into the product itself,” Acosta said. “We met with people at the EmPOWER Center on campus and went over the kinds of things we would be asking and phrasing things on the website.”

Arreola did not respond to TSL’s requests for comment.

Acosta was inspired to take the programming job after attending a debate on the #MeToo movement at Pomona College last spring. The event was rife with tension as renowned feminist writer Roxane Gay engaged in a contentious conversation with attorney Brett Sokolow and Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis.

“I think that event really solidified the frustrations I felt from people on campus about how allegations of sexual assault and harassment were being handled,” Acosta said. “I think just being there, you really felt for these people who had been through those sorts of unfortunate experiences.”

Acosta also discussed the difficulty of finding jobs in computer science that have social impact.

“My understanding of … the tech industry is that it’s, at least in my experience, really hard to try to find jobs or internships that deal directly with social issues,” Acosta said.

But her background as a Scripps student helped her identify ways to achieve social change through technology.

“You can go straight to work on all these interesting theoretical problems and then when you bring in information that you get from your other classes — things like race, class, gender — it’s easier to see how tech can be used in a positive way,” she said.

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