As the #MeToo movement and stories of high profile perpetrators of sexual assault fill our Facebook and Twitter pages, we must ask ourselves why reports of sexual assault on college campuses have been, and continue to be, so low.
A 2016 Sexual Assault & Misconduct Climate Survey Task Force Report detailed that 27.6 percent of undergraduate UW-Madison women reported experiencing a sexual assault involving force or incapacitation. Yet, only 26.1 percent of students who are sexually assaulted by force and only 9.6 percent of students sexually assaulted when incapacitated report their assaults.
Despite these high incidents of sexual assault, students are woefully unaware about how to report a sexual assault. Only 29.7 percent of students report being knowledgeable about where to make a report at the university if they or a friend experience sexual assault or misconduct. Not only do we need to make it as easy as possible to report, but further education needs to be done about the reporting process.
Enter Callisto. This survivor-centered online reporting system is designed to assist students 24/7 in documenting a sexual assault, with options to report the assault to their school Title IX coordinator, from their own home. They can also download the report and submit it to law enforcement.
There is also a unique “matching” option in which the survivor names the accused with an identifier. Only if there is a match -- indicating another sexual assault with the same perpetrator -- does the report get submitted to school authorities. Callisto is the first program of its kind that can match reports to catch repeat offenders, and its data reveal that 90 percent of assaults are committed by repeat offenders, who will commit an average of six assaults.
Because survivors of sexual assault typically wait 11 months before making a report to law enforcement, a time-stamped, encrypted written account is critical to preserve details that will fade with time. Developed by a survivor of sexual assault, the questions utilized by Callisto, which help document the assault, are based on best practices for investigating victims of traumatic events in a confidential, secure way. Many survivors report being re-traumatized when they reported being assaulted, which Callisto can help ease.
UW-Madison is currently considering whether to adopt Callisto, and private funding has already been secured. Callisto would be another tool in UW-Madison’s toolbox. Thirteen other campuses have adopted Callisto, and the results have been promising. Not only have survivors been five times more likely to report their assault to their school or the police, but they reported their assault seven months earlier than survivors without Callisto.
Sexual assault is indeed an epidemic on campus, and we need to try new, innovative ways to address it, to assist survivors, apprehend perpetrators, and to make the reporting process as easy as possible. We urge UW-Madison to take this opportunity to lead the way and become the first Big Ten University to implement Callisto, and support the needs of sexual assault survivors.
Petra Dai is a junior at UW-Madison. Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, is a member of the Wisconsin Assembly.
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