2 Tech Solutions Aid Survivors Reporting Sexual Assault & Rape

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Technology is helping to support victims of sexual violence in new ways and increase reporting sexual assault — crimes which studies have found go largely unreported.

Nearly one in three women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC’s 2017 study found that every community faces incidents of sexual violence on a level on par with the opioid epidemic.

While a little less than half of all violence victimizations are reported to law enforcement, according to a study by the Department of Justice in 2016, nearly 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

There are two tech solutions that may aid increases in reporting sexual assault.

Campus Platform Empowers Reporting Sexual Assault When Survivors are Ready

Callisto is a software platform offering secure online reporting of sexual abuse, assault and harassment. Using Callisto, students can log on 24/7 to write an account of their experiences. Thirteen colleges and universities have implemented Callisto’s Campus platform.

The Center for Advocacy, Prevention and Empowerment at the University of Denver offers survivors support in reporting on sexual assault and instances of sexual violence via Calisto as well as the campus Title IX office. According to CAPE’s website:

Callisto provides survivors with a confidential and secure way to create a time-stamped record of an assault and report electronically to campus authorities. The matching system is the first of its kind to allow survivors to take action upon the detection of repeat offenders.

I need someone to be able to report at 2 a.m. from bed,” Gretchen Dahlinger Means, Title IX coordinator and the director of equity and diversity at the University of Southern California, told NPR.

Callisto provides three options:

  1. RECORD – Record information about what happened securely and privately; it won’t go anywhere if you don’t want it to.
  2. MATCH – Match with others so you can identify repeat offenders and validate each other’s experience.
  3. REPORT – Report electronically to your school so they get your full account of what happened even before you walk in the door.

Students can start their reporting online at DU’s Callisto website.

The project also offers an invite-only Callisto Expansion Platform to partners that is helping to identify perpetrators and connect survivors with attorneys.

Watch a TEDx about Callisto:

Communities and organizations can request to join the Callisto Expansion waitlist on the project website. 

App Groups Survivor Reports to Reveal Perpetrators and Seek Justice

Ryan Soscia, founder and CEO of JDoe, said the app uses encrypted data to find similarities among reported assaults and when survivors are ready, sends their reports to law enforcement and government authorities, according to a recent article in Brit.co.

The app also allows sexual assault survivors to keep their reports in “escrow” until other survivors make allegations against the same person so they do not have to pursue criminal justice actions alone.

Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said support and a sense of safety are important to survivors. She explained that due to trauma response, reporting is not always initial consideration for victims of sexual assault. And when they do report to law enforcement or government agencies, the process can discourage survivors and potentially affect their reports.

Unfortunately, reporting isn’t often handled in a very trauma-informed way, and in many cases survivors are discouraged from moving forward or their reports aren’t taken seriously,” she said. “Not only does that cause harm to the survivors directly, but it does a disservice to the whole community.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 ensures that individuals are not required to report to law enforcement in order to receive a sexual assault forensic exam or rape kit. After he and his peers discovered they were molested by the same person, Soscia reportedly decided to build the JDoe app in order to make reporting easier and hold perpetrators accountable.

Learn more about these technologies increasing sexual assault reporting:

Access sexual assault data, training and tools that can help local governments reduce incidence of sexual violence in our guide:

Sexual Assault Prevention

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.