When Jess Ladd was a student at Pomona College, she waited a year before reporting her sexual assault to campus officials. The process of making that report, she later told friends, was almost as traumatizing as the assault itself. To make matters worse, the school didn't do all that much to help her. They handed her a pamphlet for couple's counseling and that's about it -- a pretty scary and disappointing response for any survivor.
Years later, after Ladd founded sexual health non-profit Sexual Health Innovations (SHI), she looked back on the experience as a call to action: How could reporting sexual assaults on campus be more victim/survivor friendly?
Their first stab at a solution is called Callisto -- a third-party website that students can use to log information and details about their assaults, find out more about the reporting and legal process and learn how to send the details of the report to the right person on their campus.
Tracy Vitchers, director of Director of Development and Operations at SHI, said that one of the biggest obstacles for students who have been assaulted is figuring out what they need to do and who they need to talk to. It's scary and overwhelming to share a traumatic story with a stranger and the confusing process doesn't make it any easier.
"Having to tell a stranger about this really traumatic and harrowing experience, [many survivors] just found it very, very traumatizing," Vitchers told MTV News. "Findings were pretty telling that many survivors didn’t know where to report or what happened when they did report, they weren’t confident they’d be believed if they came forward and weren’t sure if their assaults were serious enough to report."
With Callisto -- which has already launched on University of San Francisco and Pomona College campuses -- that information is all there. Colleges and universities can elect to create a Callisto site that features all the important deets that demystify the process: from who you'll be reporting to, where you can get a rape kit and your state's laws are on sexual assault. If a student is assaulted, they can log in and write out what happened and it'll be saved as a time-stamped copy in the system. They can then choose to send out the report to their college or the police or save it until they're ready.
Another cool feature it has, Vitchers explained, was the "matching escrow" which Callisto uses to keep track of the names indicated in reports of assaults. If the name of an alleged attacker shows up more than once, it's automatically reported to campus officials (which makes sense since studies show most campus sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders.)
Although some people may be skeptical about using a website for reporting sexual assault, Vitchers said that it's really only making the process more familiar and comfortable for the modern college student.
"One of the things we’re seeing is that college students are so used to using technology for everything in their life — registering for classes, ordering take-out, clothes or books. It's part of their everyday lives constantly," Vitchers said. "Having an online reporting system feels more familiar to college students today who don’t want to walk in to a dean’s office or Title IX coordinators as a first step."
If you're interested in bringing Callisto to your campus, you can also suggest your school on their website.