Sexual Harassment Reporting

Between 2018 to 2021, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)received a total of 27,291 charges alleging sexual harassment. In a study, they conducted in 2016 EEOC found that “90% of the individuals who say they have experienced harassment never take formal action against the harassment, such as filing a charge or a complaint.”[1]

The Challenge

The goal of this project is to design a mobile application that provides a safe, flexible, and easy way to report sexual harassment incidents occurring in VA facilities throughout the United States. In doing so we hope to improve accountability, and ultimately prevent sexual harassment from occurring in VA facilities. 

My Role

I collaborated with another User-Centered Design graduate student at Brandeis University to conduct user research and design for this project. I was involved in every step of this project. 

  • User Research 
  • Led Ideation Workshop
  • Prototyping – Low fidelity paper prototypes, low fidelity digital prototypes, high functional fidelity digital prototype
  • Usability Testing: for each prototype

The Discovery

I conducted semi-structured interviews to understand the problem space and define the design problem. 

  • One of the participants mentioned she wouldn’t know where to report if she was sexually harassed although she is a VA employee. She doesn’t know where the patient advocate offices are located within her facility.
  • One of the participants mentioned she wouldn’t want to report unless she was assaulted like someone touched or grabbed her body part.
  • “I get catcalls all the time.”
  • One of the participants preferred reporting in person while the other wanted to report from a mobile app or a web-based form.
  • Both participants would want a copy of the report that was filed along with the incident number.
  • Both participants would want a confirmation call from someone acknowledging the report being received and that it is being worked on.
  • A participant mentioned she does not want to retell and relive her story again and again. So she would like proof of what she submitted so that she can submit it again if she needs to.
  • A participant preferred an app because it would allow her to report at her leisure when she’s ready and feels safe. 


I led the ideation workshop to lay the foundation for design decisions and generate ideas. We used “How might we” questions to guide us during the workshop. 

  • How might we help anyone report sexual harassment and assault incidents that occurred at a VA incident?
  • How might we make our Veterans and visitors feel safe and secure when visiting a VA facility and reporting sexual harassment incidents?

We focused on 2 scenarios for this workshop

  • On-site reporting and
  • Off-site reporting

Scenario Map

What? It is a set of steps, mapped out, that a user would take to complete a task with the focus on what the user will do, not how.

Why? It ensures the designs are grounded in the real world by making us consider the context of use.

I took responsibility to design the off-site sexual harassment reporting functionality in the mobile application. I created a scenario map to keep me grounded in user needs during the design process. 


I used the 10×10 sketching method to quickly get my ideas out and communicate with others


To understand what the user would experience chronologically while using the application, I created storyboards. Equally important was its use to harness the power of storytelling to communicate the user’s experience to others. 

Iterating Prototypes

Paper Prototype

Key Findings

  • A participant thought questions of age and sex were irrelevant in the reporting context.
  • A participant mentioned she would have liked to have the option to pick the method of contact.
  • A participant wanted to see the incident description section next to where she mentioned the date and time of the incident rather than later in the process.
  • The participant was confused by the “X” button as it was not consistently placed on different screens. Similarly, the back button wasn’t present on all screens while filling out the form.
  • The participant was confused about two free text fields for description and couldn’t distinguish between harasser and incident description.
  • A participant liked the audio recording feature and also liked being able to use both text and audio for description.
  • She wasn’t sure if she could re-record the audio.
  • A participant would have liked to see a review page before submitting her information.
  • The participant wanted to see the timestamp of when the confirmation email was sent to her under the “Tracking Case Status” screen.

Changes Made

  • Information architecture was reviewed and changed for the “Incident Description” section.
  • Age and sex fields were removed.
  • The option to pick the method of contact was added. 
  • The harasser and incident description was more clearly separated by using section headers.
  • A review screen was added before submission.
  • The “X” buttons and back buttons were placed in a consistent way on all screens
  • The timestamp of when the confirmation email was sent got added to the “Tracking Case Status” page. 

Low Functional Fidelity Prototype

Key Findings

  • A participant was confused about what the next and back arrow buttons would do.
  • After the submission participant expected to see when someone would contact her.
  • The participant expected the system to ask for her incident number in the track case status screen before seeing the status.
  • The participant was confused why there were two text fields for description.

Changes Made

  • Labels for the next and back arrow buttons were added.
  • After submission, the timeframe was displayed on when the user would be contacted.
  • To track the case, the participant was required to enter the incident number in case a user would have multiple incidents reported.
  • Shaded sections were added to the harasser’s description and incident description to clearly separate the sections. 

High Functional Fidelity Prototype

Key Findings

  • In the record audio screen, the participants while recording, expected to see the play, pause, and trash options along with the pause.
  • She was happy to see the confirmation of the recording uploaded but wanted to see an “X” button to exit. The green check icon wasn’t intuitive for her to click to go to the next screen.
  • In the “Time of Incident” field participant mentioned in an actual scenario, she might not have clear memory and would want to see an “Approximate Time” label instead.
  • The participant was confused about what to enter in the “Location of the incident” field.
  • Both participants noticed the uploaded photo attached right away.
  • Both participants mentioned they wouldn’t use the record a video option.
  • A participant mentioned it would be good to know the time limit if there is one. She also mentioned the time limit would make her nervous and encourage her to rush.
  • In a situation where a participant would want to trash her recording and record again, she would like to have the option to record a new one or overwrite parts of the current one, before trashing it.
  • A participant was surprised when she saw the “recording uploaded” message after selecting the next button. She expected it to take her back to the form.
  • The participant thinks it would be a nerve-wracking process to report a sexual harassment incident and she wouldn’t want surprises. 

Changes Made

  • The label for “Time of incident” changed to “Approximate Time of Incident”
  • The label for “Location of Incident” changed to “VA Facility Location”
  • Play, pause, and trash buttons were added to the “Record Audio” screen.

Annotated Wireframes

To Do Next

  • Alerts need an “X” button instead of a green check button. It is not intuitive that the green check when selected guides the user to the next screen.
  • Further testing is needed to determine the usefulness of the “Record a Video” feature. The testing scenario would be a sexual assault situation where the user may have bruises or physical marks.
  • Add a 30-minute time limit indicator in the “Record Audio” screen.
  • Remove the message of “Audio Uploaded” confirmation. Instead guiding the user directly to the form with the audio file attached or changing the message to “Audio File Attached”.
  • Reduce surprises by making the next screens predictable by making descriptive labels.  


[1] Sexual Harassment in Our Nation’s Workplaces. (2022, April 22).