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Callisto sexual assault resources partner with University

| Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Notre Dame student government began pushing to bring the Callisto sexual violence survivor support program to the University in 2017. This January, the effort paid off.

Although Callisto was informally involved in the University community for a few years, the sexual violence survivor support program became a an official Notre Dame partner Friday, Jan. 21.

The Callisto program is available beginning this semester to aid survivors of sexual violence. 

Junior Peyton Nielsen, student government director of gender relations, said she hopes Callisto will collaborate with administration and campus organizations.

“We’re gonna develop a relationship with administration, then try to figure out a way that different organizations like the GRC or the UCC can offer Callisto alongside their other resources they have,” Nielsen said.

Callisto aims to make it easier for victims of sexual violence to come forward about their experience. Primarily, the program provides survivors with an opportunity to write confidential journals, rather than an official report, about instances of sexual violence.

“It’s completely encrypted and safe and no one has access to that unless you choose to give them access. So there’s no risk to creating an entry, which I think is really important because I feel like a lot of people look back and say they wish they wrote this down,” Nielsen said. “It’s a lot of information that kind of disappears over the years because of trauma responses.”

Time is not a problem with Callisto, Nielsen added. No matter how long ago the crime occurred, victims can still write an entry. 

“You don’t have to have something happen to you now to create an entry … it’s not too late to report,” Nielsen said. “The entry system is really accommodating to people who don’t know all of the details.” 

Callisto puts the emphasis on helping the survivor. Their purpose is to aid the healing process more than to focus on punitive measures. 

“[The goal is] to power the survivors individually because they should be the main focus. Like whether that is through just the mental health resources that have or with the legal options counselors,” Callisto program lead Lane Obringer said.

Supporting the mental health of these individuals is imperative to the focus of Callisto. Aiding in proper recovery is a founding principle to the institution. To allow people to recover more effectively, Callisto gives 10 hours of free legal advice — all of which is confidential.

Callisto also aims to help victims understand the role of Title IX in cases of sexual violence.

“The University of Notre Dame’s Title IX website is this very, very long document. It goes through a bunch of different things but they’re written in more legal terms. So the legal option can kind of walk through each of those, see what they look like,” Obringer said.

Obringer added that the data clearly shows the repeat offenders are something to be concerned about.

“90% of sexual assaults in college are committed by repeat offenders, and then those offenders will commit up to six times in college,” Obringer said. 

To combat the issue of repeat offenders, victims have the option to enter a matching pool when inputting information about the assault. This pool will give alerts when the same offender is mentioned more than once. Callisto also has an intricate system in place to ensure there are no false matches, such as allowing victims to input the offenders’ social media as a crosscheck. 

“The matching portal uses non-identifiers for perpetrators,” Obringer said. “For example, my perpetrator was John Smith. I would not type in John Smith because there are millions of John Smiths in the world”. 

Callisto will be hosting several table events in Duncan Student Center during the next couple weeks where students will be handing out forms about Callisto along with GrubHub gift cards.

There will also be information given out at dorm hall councils for both male and female dorms. Callisto information can also be found at the Gender Resource Center. Clubs that would like to have a presentation about Callisto at an event or meeting can reach out to Peyton Nielsen or Lane Obringer.

Documenting an instance of sexual violence is not an easy step for anyone to take, Nielsen and Obringer said, but the purpose of Callisto is to make it less challenging and intimidating for those who have been harmed.

“It only works if people use it and use it in longevity,” Nielsen said. 

“It never hurts to write down your story,” Obringer added.

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