Carnegie Mellon University

Integrated Innovation Institute

Engineering + Design + Business

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Night Owl Team

Night Owl App

How can we encourage students to self-report unsafe social situations?

According to a recent study by the White House Council on Women and Girls, nearly one in five young women in the United States are sexually assaulted while in college[1].

Historically, efforts to combat sexual assault have focused on educational programs that promote healthy attitudes towards gender roles, sexuality and consent. While these initiatives are crucial for spurring shifts in the cultural norms that tolerate rape and sexual assault, an individual may not recall important information when in a situation where it is needed.

Additionally, existing consumer products are designed to be used by women to deter rapists immediately before or during an attack; however, these products are ill-suited to handle the nuanced and often ambiguous scenarios that lead to acquaintance rape, and put responsibility on an individual to protect his or herself.

The Solution

Our mobile application concept, NightOwl, addresses these underlying factors by providing users with a safe and anonymous way to report potentially dangerous situations at social events. NightOwl is a social platform for communication aimed at college students and young professionals.

Night Owl App Notifications
Notifications via the Night Owl App

Intervention capabilities are embedded with interactive party communications, such as song choice for music and party invitations information. By leveraging new peer-to-peer mobile technology, users can send messages, pictures, or safety alerts to any other guest at an event without exchanging permanent contact information. NightOwl also provides tools that enable guests to safely and effectively seek help or intervene in potentially harmful situations. NightOwl is a unique approach for putting tools to facilitate bystander intervention and prevent instances of sexual assault into the hands of students in situations where they most need them.


1. Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action. The White House Council on Women and Girls, January 2014.

2. Black, M.C., et al (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.