IST student creates platform for sexual assault survivors

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As a child raised in Jaipur, India, Shreyash Manak Bohara knew firsthand how prevalent sexual assaults could be.

“Growing up as a male there, my life was easier than a woman’s,” he said. “One reason is because rape is really common.”

“I knew since I was in high school that I wanted to do something about it.”

Now a senior majoring in Information Sciences and Technology (IST), Bohara is ready to make that impact. After a successful audition in November, he has been invited to deliver a TEDxPSU talk in February about how males can help combat rape culture.

True to his message, he’s taken up the cause himself by creating a new web platform, SafeSpaceForMe.Org. His site will be a platform for survivors of sexual assault to connect with either a counselor or someone who has had a similar experience.

“It’s a real-time, anonymous chat,” he said. “Survivors will be able to reach someone who can help.”

After he began to work on the project, Bohara was painfully reminded this issue is also prevalent in the United States.

“I found out someone I know had been raped,” he said. “You know it happens, but it’s a different feeling when you know it happened to someone [you know] and you can’t do anything.”

Being aware of his friend’s experience, he was further convinced his platform was needed.

“I want to talk about what men can do,” he said.

Building the website from the ground up, the platform is currently in beta testing. Bohara plans to find students who are majoring in relevant disciplines and to tap into community resources to act as counselors once the site is fully functional.

“SafeSpaceForMe.org might be the start to bring a change,” he said. “I’m going to start going to clubs and meetings, to find people who would like to help.”

Once Bohara is able to find qualified advocates to sign up for the platform, they will be available to respond to chat requests from people who ask for help.

Bohara explained his technical skills, combined with the emphasis on real-world applications, were essential traits he earned from IST that allowed him to pursue this project.

“IST taught me how to solve problems,” he said. “Being able to build this gave me so much self-confidence.”

To help bring his project to life, Bohara connected with David Fusco, assistant teaching professor in IST, who provided technical guidance and presentation advice. When Bohara approached him, Fusco was impressed with his passion.

“I often see students trying to create the next app to gain either fame or to generate revenue,” Fusco said. “I find it refreshing to see a student who cares so deeply about helping sexual assault victims and using his talents to create something that will help them move forward.”

To prepare for the TEDxPSU audition, Fusco recommended he utilize the One Button Studio, a simplified video recording studio that allows students to practice and critique their presentation skills.

“It was really helpful, being able to review my speech as many times as I needed,” Bohara said.

Fusco further explained that Bohara’s project aligned perfectly with the education he’s receiving at IST.  

He said, “We focus on how technology can make a positive impact on the world, through understanding the social and personal side of creating solutions.”

Bohara is looking forward to debuting the platform when it’s ready, in the hopes he’s able to make a real impact for survivors of sexual assault.  

“This is a big issue right now,” he said. “I want to get my voice out there and help.”

Last Updated January 29, 2018