Twenty-year-old Britney Ramnarine has made it easier for victims of sexual assault to get help and support. Ramnarine, a sexual assault survivor herself, has launched the Sexual Assault Survivors Stand (Sass) app through which victims can seek and get support to deal with their trying circumstances.
She told Sunday Newsday's WMN magazine this is her way of offering the safe space she didn't have when she needed it. The app is free and available on android devices. At the launch of the app, on May 25 at Signature Hall, Montrose, Chaguanas, an emotional Ramnarine shared her stories with the audience.
Her sexual assault experiences first began when she was 13 and happened on three different occasions. She said the assaults left her feeling powerless and violated and she said she felt like she couldn't speak up at the time given the circumstances. She said at that time all she wanted was reassurance – to know that what happened to her wasn't her fault and to be reminded that her body still belonged to her and no one else. After a suicide attempt, Ramnarine informed her parents of what she was going through and thankfully, they were 100 per cent on her side and got her the help she needed.
Sass, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), was originally a social media page on Instagram started in November 2020. It was created after her friends advised her to think about what she had a strong, burning passion for, and helping sexual assault victims was the first idea that came to mind. She said creating the page and now, an app, feels like her way of getting justice by proving to her assaulters that they won't stifle her voice or get away with what they've done.
"I know that it's really hard and you feel alone like you've lost your innocence and your body no longer belongs to you but that's not the case. Your body belongs to you, and you can overcome this," she had told those present at the launch.
"If there was something like this that existed when I needed it and was going through a rough time, then it could have been a big assistance. I felt alone and like I had no support around me. This app can provide support and guidance to those in need."
After the page's debut, she was surprised it had got 1,000 followers in two weeks. It now has over 5,000 followers and the numbers continue to grow daily. She said she gets an average of 60 responses per month and in some instances, are over 100.
"I was so scared this would fail or I wasn't fit enough to run this organisation. I would second guess myself because talking about sexual assault this much can take a toll and bring up memories, but I was able to push through. I started it and I'm not letting it fail."
Ramnarine said the creation of the app allows victims to reach out to each other for support and get help from officers of the Gender-Based Violence Unit through the various gender-based violence hotlines in TT. The officers can be contacted directly from the app, and because all conversations are done by texting and none of the messages exchanged are saved, the information is kept private.
She said the identity of the victims are never revealed, whether on Instagram or on the app, because personal information is not required. For the Instagram feed, they are asked to access the Google Forms platform provided on Sass’ biography via a link, and only their stories are posted to the feed. She said if the victim requests that their story be removed from the feed, they are deleted.
For the app, once downloaded, they are asked to create an account with an email address and username. The app developer, Sharuhk Singh said the email addresses are not stored, as all personal information are sent to a server to which he has no access. A prompt that allows users to add a story then comes up with the options of remaining anonymous or including their names.
Ramnarine said, along with the large following and responses, one story stuck to her – one that came from the point of a view of a perpetrator. And although the person asked her not to post the story, she said she was in awe while reading it. She said it wasn't a story that she expected to see given that the page is dedicated to victims. But, she was taken aback by the honesty of the perpetrator.
She said anyone interested in becoming a member of Sass can fill out their information on a Google form, but the final decision is made by Ramnarine and other authorised members.
For those who wish to view the content or share responses with Sass can do so by using their links on Instagram:
Those who wish to contact officers can do so by calling:
TTPS Gender-Based Violence Unit: 999
Rape Crisis Hotline: 622-7273
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-SAVE (7283)
Victim and Witness Support Unit: 612-2577, 612-2465, 612-0301, 624-8853