The New Tech that Could Help Stop Campus Sexual Assault

Faith Marnecheck, Staff Writer

Sexual assault is unacceptable. Colleges have put forth multiple initiatives to stop sexual assault on campus, but have not fully halted it from happening. Jess Ladd, a college sexual assault survivor herself, is the founder and CEO of Callisto, which may be the answer to working to decrease accounts of sexual assault on college campuses. Callisto is a web-based system for sexual assault survivors to submit their experiences to their university in an anonymous manner or users have the ability to choose whether their identity will be revealed.

Callisto works by offering survivors three actions they can take after their assault: creating a time-stamped record of the experience, matching with others who have been assaulted by the same perpetrator by entering the assailant’s name into Callisto and reporting the time-stamped record to the person’s respective university if and when they feel comfortable doing so. The matching ability of Callisto is especially important according to Jess Ladd, who recently spoke at the New York State Health Foundation.

“Ninety percent  of campus assaults are committed by repeat offenders, who, on average, commit six assaults each, and that’s just before they graduate college,” Ladd said at the talk. “But as a victim, it’s pretty impossible to know whether what happened to you happened to someone else.”

By offering victims the ability to enter the name of the assailant, Callisto works to stop this trend of repeat offenders because victims can see that they are not alone in their experience. Ladd explained that this recognition that the assault is not an isolated incident is vital in survivor’s decision of whether to report the incident or not.

“The repeat offender piece is really important, often to victims, because when they do come forward, their primary motivation is to protect others,” Ladd said. “They’re often driven by the sense of wanting to help their community. That’s especially true if they know or suspect there’s another victim of the same assailant.”

Sexual assault is not an issue boiled down to just gender; according to Ladd, 84 percent of survivors who have created records in Callisto have been cisgender women, nine percent have been cisgender men and seven percent have been students of other genders. Callisto listened to sexual assault survivors needs and tailored the resources of being able to create a report — whether the victim chooses to send it or not — and being able to match with other survivors to these needs as well as using gender-inclusive language to make all students feel welcome. Currently, Callisto is available on 13 campuses including Stanford University, but NYU is unfortunately not one of them. In order to use Callisto’s services, students need to attend a university that has its own specific Callisto site so that students can submit reports directly to the university.

The best way to bring Callisto to a university is for students to advocate for it. On Callisto’s website, it offers a campus toolkit for students who want to be involved in bringing the service to their school. Stern sophomore Ianna Arthur feels that Callisto is very important and should be embraced by NYU.

“I don’t see any reason why NYU or any college campus wouldn’t want to have this for their students to feel more safe and feel more comfortable telling their stories,” Arthur said. “It’s definitely something that can help sexual assault survivors.”

Bringing Callisto to NYU is up to the students to recognize the importance of the service and advocate to the university to bring it here. Being a part of the change to end sexual assault is now more in the hands of the students than ever. Noah Friend, a sophomore in Tisch, sees Callisto as worthy of student support, especially in an urban campus like NYU.

“I think it should be brought to NYU, especially because it is New York,” Friend said. “It’s an important thing on all college campuses, but especially in New York. I think everyone should want this to be a resource.”

Email Faith Marnecheck at [email protected].