Students aim to implement Callisto program at Notre Dame
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Members of student government are leading the charge for Notre Dame to a new option for students to report sexual assaults.
Senior Grace Watkins and freshman Isabel Rooper said they hope the University will move forward with implementing Callisto, a new tool intended to better help survivors of sexual assault report the incidents to University officials, as its primary method of reporting sexual assaults. The implementation of this software — which has been adopted at peer institutions such as Stanford — is pending University approval, Rooper said.
“Callisto is reporting software that is trauma informed, survivor-friendly and it’s a system that allows survivors of sexual assault to provide a time-stamped report immediately after their assault,” she said. “ … On average, survivors wait about 11 months to submit a report, so by having this time-stamped report immediately after the assault they are able to have better evidence to rely on if they do eventually choose to submit that report.”
Rooper said one of the unique features of Callisto is its matching software, which is aimed at preventing repeat offenders from assaulting another person.
“You submit a link to the Facebook page of the perpetrator if you choose to opt in to this matching program,” she said. “If someone else submits that identical Facebook page, then those two matching reports are automatically submitted to Notre Dame’s deputy Title IX coordinator, Heather Ryan.”
Those reports do not become public, Rooper said, unless a person’s Facebook page is submitted twice, at which time the appropriate officials who oversee sexual assault cases may view the joint report. This feature is critical because of the prevalence of repeat offenders, Rooper said.
“Repeat offenders, on average, commit sexual assault or rape six times — and that’s a huge problem,” she said. “ … Often times people feel like their story is invalid if they’re the only one, but if you have someone else to stand with and saying, ‘Yeah, that person did this to me as well,’ it can be really helpful and feel more supportive and [make survivors] more willing to submit that report.”
Callisto believes this feature and catching repeat offenders early will dramatically reduce sexual assaults, Watkins said.
“By Callisto’s estimation, being able to intervene earlier on in a record of offending could prevent something like 56 percent of sexual assaults if everything is being reported properly,” she said.
Another unique element of Callisto, Watkins said, is the methods it uses to prevent and report sexual assault.
“Callisto is designed by survivors of sexual assault for survivors of sexual assault,” she said. “Jess Ladd, who is the founder of Callisto, is also an infectious disease epidemiologist by training, and so she’s coming at the issue from the standpoint that sexual assault is a public health crisis just like any disease would be, and we can use data and numbers and technology to track and ultimately try and prevent sexual assault from occurring in the future.”
While the reporting of sexual assaults has increased with initiatives such as Green Dot, Watkins said implementing Callisto would be another step in making sure more sexual assaults are reported.
“We want to make survivors feel even more empowered to report in the future,” she said. “I think Callisto is currently the best way of doing so with respect to the actual reporting device.”
Watkins said a change is desperately needed based on how the current reporting system is structured.
“Currently, the online reporting system that we have serves the purpose of both sexual assault reporting and racial discrimination reporting,” she said. “ … I think that both racial discrimination and sexual assault deserve their own reporting systems that are tailored towards the specifics of the source of harm.”
One potential attribute which could increase the frequency with which assaults are reported is integration with the Notre Dame mobile app, Watkins said.
“Callisto has mentioned there’s the possibility of integrating it into schools apps that already exist on their phone,” she said. “So you don’t have to have a second wave of people trying to download the Callisto app. It would be on the app they already have, which is really exciting to me.”
Rooper said she believes implementing Callisto will help create a better environment on campus concerning sexual assault.
“[Callisto would create] a safer and more survivor-friendly process, because right now our process isn’t always super friendly to survivors,” she said. “So it would be great to make that process easier and more accessible and less emotionally harmful.”