Providing trauma-informed options for reporting sexual assault on college campuses
Sexual assault and harassment are far too common and often never reported. The process of reporting can feel isolating — or worse, retraumatising — and comes with its own set of personal and professional risks.
An estimated 20% of women, 7% of men, and 24% of trans and gender nonconforming students are sexually assaulted during their college career. Less than 10% of college assault survivors report to administrators, local police, campus security, or other authorities. Those who do report, report an average of 11 months after their assault, making it hard to conduct an investigation. These investigations are not challenging because of an unknown perpetrator - 85% of college survivors know their assailant - but rather because investigators are not sure whether to believe that an assault actually took place. Only 6% of assaults reported to police end with the assailant spending a single day in prison, meaning that over 99% of them will not face serious consequences for their actions. This means there is practically no deterrent to sexual assault in the United States.
Callisto, a tech-nonprofit founded in 2016, envisions a world where survivors receive the support they need, where perpetrators are held accountable, and the cycle of sexual assault is broken. Callisto’s digital platform is survivor-centric to the core; placing places survivors needs first by allowing them to disclose on their terms and giving them a safe place to explore their options.
The breakthrough feature of Callisto is the opt-in matching tool. Callisto gives survivors three options:
1.Create a time-stamped record and hold it for later reporting,
2.Report directly to their campus authorities, or
3.Enter into matching where they can name their perpetrator and be notified if another victim names the same person.
The matching option provides survivors with another level of support, giving them the chance to proceed with their reporting options together, increasing the odds they will be believed when seeking justice.
Jess Ladd, the founder and CEO of Callisto, is herself a survivor. She describes the process of reporting as more traumatic than the incident itself. Ladd explains that survivors of sexual assault feel the burden of proof is on them, and they are often made to feel on trial: “What people ask is not, who did it, but are you sure that it happened?” Additionally, Ladd found that having someone else document your experience down for you – through the evidence collection interview process - left open the possibility for human error that could ultimately be used to question the credibility of the survivor. Ladd created Callisto as a way to collect evidence earlier and more accurately while making the reporting process feel safer for survivors.
In the last three-years, Callisto has grown to 13 campuses, supports over 150,000 students, and rapidly expanding. Rather than creating separate websites for every institution, Callisto wants to create a centralised database for every victim in the United States where they can learn about their options for taking action, save timestamped records of what happened to them, and safely connect with other victims of the same perpetrator.Through this unique approach, they are making huge strides to overcome the epidemic of sexual assaults in the United States.