This year, USF became the first school to implement the new college sexual assault reporting system Callisto, designed as a confidential, online platform for victims of sexual assault to document their attack and send it to the appropriate resources.
The company prides itself on its simplicity, transparency, and confidentiality — the victim fills out an account of the attack online by documenting details about time and location, and even naming the assailant through Facebook. They are then given advice on how to save and collect evidence. After the victim completes the report, they can decide to either take immediate action, or save it for later.
Kate Lazarov, a Project Officer at Callisto, said of the process, “Some of the main benefits that I see are allowing someone to record what happened without forcing them to report immediately, separating the process of making a record that could later be used as evidence from the daunting and often re-traumatizing process of reporting.”
Students also have the option to view if the assailant has been reported in the past through the “Matching Escrow” feature. Once the report is complete, victims are made aware of the various reporting options available at USF, and can choose who to contact, if they feel comfortable enough to do so.
Callisto was introduced to USF by former Vice Provost Peter Novak, who serves as a member of Callisto’s Higher Education Advisory Board. During his time as VP, he was made aware of the program after they presented at the White House Data Jam on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault. At the White House Data Jam, 60 innovators, technologists, students, policy experts, and survivors of sexual assault came together to speak about how to slow the alarming rate of sexual assault on college campuses. Callisto was a striking program to Novak.
In order to properly introduce students to the program, Callisto was promoted during first year orientation, and RA’s and RD’s have also been trained on the program.
“[Callisto] makes this type of reporting more accessible to victims, which is a demographic that is known to have issues with reporting these types of things,” said Senior Kyle Jacobson, an RA in Lone Mountain, is optimistic about Callisto. “I expect the percentage of people that are willing to come forward to increase because of this,” he said.
Some students do agree that there are potential areas for improvement. During the RA training, the Facebook matching feature was a cause for many inquiries, as the app requires the assailant to have a Facebook account. “It seems to me that the biggest problem that people are going to have is with the matchmaking feature,” Jacobson said, “I think there’s going to be some kinks that need to be worked out, but as far as the reporting system goes, I think it’s great.”
USF has also taken the additional measure of hiring Anna Bartowski as the new Title IX representative, The position was formerly held by employees of the Office of Student Conduct Code, Rights, and Responsibilities (OSCRR).
“For right now, the Facebook profile ID is the best way to create a discoverable and qualifying unique-identifier for a particular person,” Bartkowski said of the matching feature. “We want to be really careful that people don’t get named mistakenly because of common names and we want to be sure we pinpoint the right person. So, it’s not perfect but as things go right now, it’s the best we’ve got for the online reporting system,” she said.
According to Lazarov, USF did pay a small, undisclosed financial contribution, although founding institutions are offered significant discounts from the standard fee.
This is not the first sexual assault awareness program that USF has launched. Novak also oversaw the development of “Think About It” in collaboration with Campus Clarity, a legal compliance and online education company in Walnut Creek. As of September of 2014, 170 campuses have used “Think About It,” training their students with real-world scenarios fabricated by members of the USF community.
Callisto also debuted at Pomona College in August of this year, and is considering expanding to another institution in Spring 2016. They intend to expand to an additional 10 to schools by the 2016-2017 school year.