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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

University weighs pros, cons of current sexual assault reporting system against Callisto program

Chelsea Purgahn

The University is at a turning point in regards to sexual assault reporting, with discussions underway surrounding a new software called Callisto that would work alongside existing forms of reporting sexual misconduct on campus, according to University officials.

Callisto’s aim is to be more than a method of online sexual assault reporting. According to Callisto partnerships manager Ashley Schwedt, the program includes a website dedicated to survivor resources that anyone seeking help may need, regardless of whether they decide to report. A characteristic of Callisto that supports this ideology is the delayed reporting option, which allows survivors to document what took place without reporting it immediately to the University.

This feature is in contrast to the current system’s approach, which immediately sends a report to University officials.

“When the request is made, our expectation is that any institution would be able to provide the services needed,” said Elliot Golden, product manager for software company Symplicity. “If we want a record of that in the University systems, they can track that it has been delivered … we believe that’s best procedure and that’s how we set the system up.”

Advocate, a campus incident-reporting system created by Symplicity, is currently employed by the University’s Title IX office as an online tool to report sexual assault. Callisto and Advocate operate on two sides of the same coin, the former focusing on student-based needs and the latter guiding University officials through the reporting process.

“Advocate is a best-in-class case management system that was purposed, built and designed for student conduct administrators to handle an array of issues on campus,” Golden said, noting that sexual assault is one of many incidents that can be reported to University officials using Advocate.

Schwedt said a key difference between each program is the audience it aims to service, with Advocate being heavily administrative while Callisto seeks to orient itself more specifically to students.

“Systems like Advocate … are really beneficial on the administrative end,” Schwedt said. “They have an outward-facing form that allows anyone to submit an incident. That form is really the only student-facing component of the system.”

Suspect matching is a second Callisto feature that differs from Advocate, which Golden said is currently not something Symplicity would seek to change. Matching would allow for survivors to input information about their attacker in the report, which would subsequently link up to similar information about that same suspect provided by other victims’ reports. Callisto uses University email addresses or Facebook profile URLs to match corroborating suspects. Callisto gives guidance on how to preserve evidence and what sorts of evidence can be useful to support an investigation (such as emails, text messages or social media interactions, in addition to possible physical evidence).

Representatives from both companies agree that Callisto and Advocate are not mutually exclusive and instead form different pieces of one larger puzzle. Schwedt said the programs are not comparable, since they both cater to different aspects of the reporting process, something Golden views as a valuable tool in furthering survivor advocacy and case worker efficiency.

Title IX coordinator Latoya Smith hopes that through the process of considering Callisto’s software, the University will seek an integrated approach that would allow victims to benefit from both softwares.

“If we’re moving in the direction of Callisto, great; but if not, how can we incorporate the elements of Callisto that really resonate for individuals and incorporate them here at our institution?” Smith said. “I think that’s definitely something we’re still exploring.”

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University weighs pros, cons of current sexual assault reporting system against Callisto program