How College Students Can Discreetly Report Sexual Assault

According to a poll published this summer by the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of women and five percent of men say they were sexually assaulted on college campuses over the last four years. Most of these cases went unreported, as victims often knew their assailants, did not want to draw attention to themselves, weren’t sure if they would be believed, or weren’t certain if the incident legally constituted rape.

A new website called Callisto enables victims to discreetly report sexual assault incidences to a third-party website. The website allows for the option of filing an official report at any time, and also the option of filing an official report only if there is a “matching” report, one filed against a repeat offender.

The Callisto website says: "It is estimated that 90% of sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders, but given current reporting rates these repeat offenders are rarely caught. Survivors currently have no way of knowing whether or not their assailant is a repeat offender. Survivors who know or suspect that their assailant is a repeat offender are more likely to report their assault. If we could stop college sexual assault perpetrators after their second assault, we would prevent 60% of sexual assaults."

Callisto was created by a team of anti-sexual assault activists and survivors of sexual assault. The aim is to allow victims a more nuanced conversation and change the process of reporting sex crimes. 

Callisto representative Tracey Vitchers believes the writing process is a helpful tool for survivors of sexual assault.

“Many survivors we spoke with believed that having the opportunity to write down what happened would have been therapeutic, which is why we crafted Callisto in a way that allows for free-form response without a time limit. Writing down what happened allows survivors to clearly articulate their experience without interruption, judgment or re-traumatization at a time and place that feels safe for them,” Vitchers says.

Existing processes for reporting sexual assault on college campuses, like reporting sexual assault in general, are problematic and often disempower survivors of sexual assault. Callisto hopes to make the process easier. “By allowing the survivor to create a record of their assault, learn about who they will have to talk to and what the investigative process will be if they choose to report, and gain information about support services, Callisto demystifies the reporting process. It also gives survivors the opportunity to file a report at a time and places that feels safe for them, whether it is late at night in their dorm room or early in the morning from a coffee shop,” Vitchers adds.

Vitchers believes a website like Callisto could also expand to incorporate non-campus assault. “It could be used to facilitate reporting of sexual assaults in the military or  sexual harassment in the workplace,” she said.

Callisto is running a trial at Pomona College and the University of San Francisco this year, with plans to expand if successful.

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