Campuses should adopt safe, responsible sexual assault disclosure methods

Mary Dolan

Sexual assault on college campuses has been the topic of much recent controversy and conversation. Students across the nation have voiced concerns about how their universities handle specific sexual assault cases. These controversies have urged colleges to develop more expansive and uniform sexual assault prevention programs.

Sexual Health Innovations, a nonprofit group, hopes to help both alleged victims and scrutinized campuses. The group created Callisto, a third-party online sexual assault reporting system that gives victims the opportunity to file a report of their assault online. Victims can then either submit the report to the authorities or save it with a timestamp for potential future use.

According to the Executive Director of Sexual Health Innovations, Jessica Ladd, certain features of Callisto aim to help protect the privacy of those involved in the reports and to discourage false reports. Callisto would let its users choose to have their alleged attacker reported to the authorities immediately if said assailant is named as an attacker in another user’s report. However, no students or university administrators would be able to use Callisto to see if any individual is named as either a victim or an assailant. While victims and authorities (and alleged attackers, if a report was submitted) would know about the details of the reports, nobody else would be able to find out which students were involved with them.

The University of San Francisco has been the first and only campus so far to commit to Callisto, according to a Huffington Post article. However, Sexual Assault Innovations hopes that more campuses will choose to use Callisto. Such a system, they hope, would encourage more victims to report their assaults and identify more assailants.

Callisto has the potential to be a program that could accomplish its goals and help victims as long as it is used correctly. It is obviously important to give appropriate resources to victims, but it is also important to ensure that Callisto will not be vulnerable to users who seek to use it to send false reports or accost alleged victims or attackers. An online reporting system would be helpful for students who feel too intimidated or upset to speak to the authorities in person, but Sexual Health Innovations must take precautions to ensure that the system will not be abused. Otherwise, a tool that is meant to help victims could very well end up hurting them or other students that have not been involved in any attacks. However, responsible monitoring and use of Callisto could make it a useful and encouraging tool for victims.

The problem of college sexual assault has been pushed into the spotlight during the last couple of years, and no one seems to know how to deal with it effectively, especially considering the problems of false reporting and victim safety. Callisto should be part of the solution, but Sexual Health Innovations should ensure that a tool made for safety and anonymity does not come under threat from inappropriate abuse.

Dolan is a journalism freshman from Abilene. Follow Dolan on Twitter @mimimdolan.