Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Callisto

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

February 2020

Grant Amount

$219,932

Grant Date:

October 2016 – April 2018

Although sexual assault is a pervasive problem on college campuses, it is estimated that less than 10% of survivors report the assault to administrators, local police, campus security, or other authorities.

Those who do report assaults wait 11 months on average, during which time critical evidence may be lost or damaged; survivor memories and eyewitness accounts can become vague; and physical injuries heal. These current patterns in reporting make it challenging for schools to accurately assess the extent of the problem or identify and discipline perpetrators, especially repeat assailants who commit 90% of campus assaults. To address these issues, Callisto (formerly known as Sexual Health Innovations) created a Web-based, survivor-centered college sexual assault reporting system. The online system developed by Callisto protects the victim by preventing public shame and stigma while offering robust record-keeping of the incident. This survivor-centered approach increases the likelihood that a survivor will report an assault and that she or he will experience positive emotional and adjudicative outcomes. It also enables schools to detect repeat perpetrators—an important factor in preventing future sexual assaults.

In 2016, NYSHealth awarded Callisto a grant to pilot the reporting system at three colleges in New York State.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Developed an online system for universities that would offer a more empowering reporting experience for survivors; provide authorities with better evidence and data on sexual assault; facilitate the identification of repeat assailants; and equip survivors with a confidential and secure way to create a time-stamped record of an assault.
  • Provided users with three options for record-keeping of the incident:
    • Create a time-stamped, secure record of sexual assault;
    • Report an incident electronically by sending a record to the school; and
    • Notify the school only if another student names the same perpetrator through the Callisto system.
  • Provided administrators at the partnering colleges with Web-based trainings and digital training guides on how to use the reporting system, as well as shared promotional materials for colleges to disseminate to students and raise awareness of the system’s availability.
  • Trained student leaders to act as resources for their peers on how to use the system.
  • Supported administrators with any challenges that arose and conducted virtual and/or in-person site visits with administrators, faculty, staff, and students to obtain feedback on Callisto.
  • Conducted student surveys over the 2018–19 academic year to measure their awareness of the system, gain deeper insight on their reasons for using it, and assess the prevalence of sexual assault on the participating campuses. Among the findings:
    • Callisto’s website had 3,528 visitors, a 7.3% increase in site traffic from the previous academic year;
    • 280 records were created and 87 were submitted into a match (i.e., repeat perpetrators);
    • More than 30 of these cases were directly reported to Title IX coordinators, who are responsible for overseeing the investigation and resolution of all reports of sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence involving students, staff, and faculty on college campuses;
    • Nearly half of respondents (43.6%) noted that information about their reporting options was a feature they used while on Callisto’s site; and
    • More than one-third of respondents (36.3%) noted that they sought information on school policies via Callisto.

Originally, Callisto was to partner with Canisius College in Buffalo, the State University of New York at Binghamton, and Cornell University in Ithaca to develop customized reporting systems and support their implementation. However, as a result of unanticipated delays in contract agreements with these colleges, Callisto selected two alternate New York State institutions to partner with: St. John’s University in New York City and Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva. Callisto has since gone on to partner with additional campuses, both in New York and in other states, including Canisius College, Coe College, University of San Francisco, Pomona College, Loyola Marymount University, University of Oregon, Central College, University of Southern California, University of Denver, and Stanford University.

Although the project was successful in empowering campus survivors to record their sexual assaults, Callisto encountered some management-related challenges to implementing the pilot. One unforeseen challenge, for example, was the departure of key Callisto staff members during the grant period, which led to some delays in the pilot’s implementation and sometimes slower communication between Callisto and its partners.

Over the course of pilot, Callisto also gained insights into which campuses were more likely to succeed in launching and using the reporting system. For example, leaving the ultimate decision for adopting the system solely to the Title IX office has been a source of tension at some universities, resulting in less effective use and engagement. Additionally, some administrators were concerned about perpetrators being individuals outside of their school’s community, and therefore found the matching function of Callisto to be of limited use.

By incorporating these and other lessons learned, Callisto has since put in place new processes and quality improvement upgrades that should yield even stronger outcomes in the future. The cultural landscape demands that Callisto move quickly to provide reporting options beyond the college environment. Consequently, in 2018 Callisto began plans to expand its reporting platform for use in professional industries to detect repeat perpetrators across different institutions. In 2020, Callisto will launch a new product, Callisto Expansion, which adapts its unique matching model and provides expanded support options to survivors. Similar to Callisto Campus, the new product will detect serial sexual offenders. However, the new system will also connect victims of serial offenders to an attorney rather than the Title IX Office of their school. This attorney will help survivors understand a wide range of options for taking action (e.g., report to police, report to HR, report to the Title IX Coordinator, go public). The attorney will also help victims of the same perpetrator share information with one another and coordinate their actions.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A