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University Of San Francisco Becomes First College To Adopt Callisto, A New Rape Reporting System

05/28/2015 06:55 pm ET
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The University of San Francisco announced today it will become the first higher education institution to implement Callisto, a new online reporting system for campus sexual assaults.

Callisto, designed by the nonprofit organization Sexual Health Innovations, is a third-party online reporting system designed for colleges using input from rape survivors.

The system allows an alleged victim to hold back on submitting their report unless someone else reports the same assailant, or to save their file with a timestamp and come back at a later point to turn in their report. Sexual Health Innovations hopes the system can get more victims to come forward, identify serial perpetrators and mitigate responses by school or law enforcement officials that may exacerbate trauma experienced by a victim.

"Millennials are much more accustomed to finding things online," said Peter Novak, vice provost of student life at USF. "It doesn't negate their coming to a real person, but at least it gives them some assistance and help before they do so."

Because a report on Callisto can be saved and then returned to, alleged victims will have more time to reflect on questions and answers. They may not remember everything at first, depending on the circumstances and trauma involved, Novak said, so being able to remember things on their own time is a big benefit.

The announcement that USF is the first school comes just as a task force in Virginia recommended that each college in that state adopt an online reporting system for sexual assaults.

Callisto has been hailed by some advocates as a "promising" alternative to requiring reporting assaults to police, since the system includes an option for a victim's report to be submitted automatically either to the school or to police if someone else accuses the same person of assault.

Novak said he learned of Callisto through Futures Without Violence, a nonprofit in San Francisco. He said he spoke with Jessica Ladd, the CEO of Sexual Health Innovations, and then with U.S. Department of Education to get more feedback about the idea, and believes Callisto has the potential to "really change culture" for reporting sexual assault.

"Some of the benefits are that hopefully it will help us identify repeat offenders, but also, often times when students report an assault and questions may be asked, and they don't know why they were being asked ... Callisto gives us the ability to explain [the rationale behind the questions]," Novak said.

He's also eager to see what sort of data the school receives from Callisto. For instance, the school can monitor when students are looking at the system more, signalling it's a good time for the school to increase awareness efforts for reporting options.

"The data we'll get from Callisto will really help us hone in on our own prevention efforts," Novak said.

Callisto will launch at USF in the fall, as will the university's campus climate survey. USF will still have in-person reporting options and confidential counseling available for campus assault.

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