Of all the frightening things about moving to college, one of the most terrifying parts is that one in five women and one in 13 men will be sexually assaulted during their college career in the United States. The number of reported sexual assault cases have increased at the University of Nevada, Reno, but there is a new tool appearing on campuses that aims to put an end to sexual assaults.
Last year 120 students, faculty and staff reported some sort of sexual harassment, discrimination or assault at UNR. Sixteen of those were rape victims.
The numbers of reported rape cases have increased from 2014, when there were only six reported rape cases, and from only one in 2013.
Sexual Health Innovations, a nonprofit software startup company based in San Francisco and dedicated to addressing increases in sexual assaults, launched Callisto last year. Callisto is an online reporting system for sexual violence on college campuses. It is spreading to several universities across the U.S. in an effort to help prevent the growing epidemic of sexual assault.
Callisto is a tool utilized on participating college campuses for victims to report sexual assaults. In contrast to other reporting tools, Callisto offers a “matching option” that allows a victim to submit an anonymous record of their sexual assault and will receive a notification if another victim submits a record citing the same perpetrator.
“The matching system is very important,” said Tracey Vitchers, chief development officer for Sexual Health Innovations. “Ninety percent of sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders and reporting rates are so low. If we are able to stop a perpetrator after their second assault, we are able to save 60 percent of assaults.”
If a student experiences a case of sexual misconduct, they create a record in the system. The record asks when the case took place, where it occurred, what evidence the victim has, if they received medical support, the perpetrator’s name and any witnesses or friends the victim may have told about the incident. The victim can then save the record in the system as confidential, or they can use the system to submit their record to the university’s Title IX officer so the university can take steps towards finding the perpetrator.
“I think that every tool that assists in the reporting process of sexual assaults is important to have on campuses,” said Denise Cordova, UNR’s Title IX officer.
UNR’s Title IX office has a reporting tool on its website that victims can use to either report anonymously or with their names and the name of the perpetrator.
Callisto works with universities’ Title IX officers to look at trends and spikes in reports of sexual assault.
With the data, universities can analyze spikes in the trends and connect them to campus and community events that may be places and times of repeated sexual assault. The university can then take steps toward better programming during spike times.
“Having the ability to write down what happened to you is important when reporting sexual assaults and helps when talking to people,” Vitchers said. “We talk a lot about how important survivor support is and colleges are using great tools, but we’re still seeing the same amount of sexual assaults. The percentage is so similar across campuses despite the institution size and location. The numbers remained the same one in five statistics. We have not moved the need all.”
Reports of sexual assault at UNR generally spike at the beginning of fall semester, Cordova said. The Title IX office has addressed this spike by targeting freshmen early in the fall semester by speaking at orientations, passing out postcards and handing out booklets. Cordova also goes into classrooms to talk to students about resources the office and university offer to students who have experienced sexual assault.
“The information is getting out there,” Cordova said. “We’re doing everything possible for our faculty, students and staff to know who to report to if there is sexual assault or any interpersonal violence. We’ve been pushing this information out there since 2012 to get the information to everyone. The increase [in sexual assaults reported] is directly related to us getting all of this information out.”
Last year, Callisto began its pilot year with the participation of Pomona College and the University of San Francisco. This year, five colleges have signed up for Callisto.
Pomona College and USF saw 10 percent of students utilize Callisto last year.
“We saw indicators that the system is useful,” Vitchers said. “Students are seeing it as a resource on college campuses. We had reports that have been facilitated through the schools. We took a survey of the student body and found that most students knew about Callisto and were more positive about their school’s approach to sexual assault. Hard numbers are having an impact, but we are also seeing culture shifts about feelings of sexual assault.”
UNR’s Title IX office has seen a shift in the amount of reported sexual assaults, and is aiming to provide as many resources as possible for victims. Oftentimes students reach out to the Title IX office just to receive resources, but not to file any reports or even give the name of their perpetrator.
“I think bystander intervention is very important,” Cordova said. “I know that it is hard to get involved, but if you are a witness to something like this, then I believe that you should report it.”
To learn more about Callisto and to get involved with the program, students should reach out to their Title IX coordinator. The Title IX coordinator can learn more at projectcallisto.org, where they can schedule a demo of the tool.
UNR’s Title IX office encourages students to reach out for resources and reporting tools. The office also encourages students to make a plan before they go out and to never leave the group, no matter the circumstances.