Callisto, named after the Greek nymph who was raped by Zeus, is a brand new program being implemented at USF. It is an online program for reporting cases of sexual assault on our campus. USF is one of three colleges – the first Jesuit college – to begin using this online resource. In a letter from USF’s Interim Vice Provost of Student Life, Julie Oro states, “Callisto was built to provide an empowering reporting experience for students, connect them with sexual assault resources, facilitate the identification of repeat perpetrators, and provide USF with data to help target our prevention and response efforts.”
It is no secret that sexual assault is a huge issue in our society, particularly on college campuses. It is truly horrifying that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted while at an institute of higher education, as reported by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Recently, sexual violence is being addressed more in the media. A notable example is the coverage of Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz, who carried around a dorm mattress in protest of her offender remaining on Columbia’s campus. Finally, we are openly talking about sexual assault and, more importantly, we are talking about consent. In my four years here, it has been incredible to watch USF continually improve their policies and conversations around sexual assault. We now have Think About It, consent workshops at new student orientation, the gender and sexuality center, events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and now Callisto. We are not only talking about it, but we are taking measures to prevent sexual assault from happening.
Sexual assault is one of the most difficult crimes to report, mostly due to the shame, embarrassment and violation that surrounds the people who experience it. This is why such a high percentage of rape goes unreported; Callisto aims to increase these reports. Our generation often feels safer behind a screen and a keyboard and Callisto caters to this preference. While it does not provide the same effects as going and speaking to someone about this traumatic experience, it does provide an outlet and a first step.
With Callisto, survivors are able to create a password protected, encrypted document in which they can recount their experience. After writing it down, they can either decide to do nothing at all, send their report to USF, or enter it into a matching system. The matching system is something that is very unique and I think could be truly revolutionary. Survivors can enter in the name and Facebook link of the perpetrator and choose only to report if the system finds a match for that information. Part of the fear that surrounds reporting sexual assault is the fear of being alone or doubting yourself, and knowing that you are not alone can be extremely empowering. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 90% of college campus sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders. With this statistic, it makes sense why this matching system can change a lot about the way we report and resolve sexual assault incidents. While there are still kinks to be worked out, such as the fact that someone may not always know the name of their perpetrator or a perpetrator may not have a Facebook account, it is definitely a step in the right direction. I look forward to the day when we live around consent culture, rather than rape culture.