As part of our ICTforWomanity interviews, we talked to  Jessica Ladd, founder of Callisto.

A victim of sexual assault herself, Jessica Ladd says it’s time to change the outdated response to rape and assault – especially on college campuses – where most survivors do not even report the event. With better systems for capturing this information and banding survivors together, Jessica says we can start creating a world where rape is rare and inexcusable, and perpetrators are held accountable.

WOMANITY: Who are you Jessica and what should the world specifically know about Callisto?
JESSICA LADD: I am a sexual assault survivor, an infectious disease epidemiologist, and the Founder & CEO of Sexual Health Innovations, a non-profit dedicated to creating technology that transforms sexual health and wellbeing in the United States. Our main initiative, Callisto, is an online sexual assault reporting system for college campuses that

  1. creates a more empowering reporting experience for survivors,
  2. provides authorities with better data to prevent future assaults, and
  3. helps identify repeat assailants.

W: What are you doing differently, compared to other innovations in the field?
JL: We are the first and only system that allows sexual assault survivors to save a trauma-informed time-stamped electronic record of what happened to them and (if they wish) report their assault automatically if someone else names the same assailant. Although the majority of assaults are committed by repeat offenders, most are never reported. When speaking with survivors, we learned that most would want to report their assault if they knew that they weren’t the only victim of a given assailant, but right now we have no way to really know that except for the rumour mill.

One in 5 women and one in 13 men will be sexually assaulted during their college career in the United States.
Less than 10% will ever report their assault to their school or to the police.
On average, those who do report wait 11 months.
90% of sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders.

With Callisto, we’re creating an entirely new paradigm in sexual assault reporting – one that is built specifically to meet the needs of survivors. Survivors can

  1. learn about reporting options and processes,
  2. connect to support,
  3. fill out a form to create a time-stamped record of what happened to them, that they can return to and add to at any time (or never do anything with),
  4. electronically report their assault directly to the authorities, or
  5. report their assault only if someone else names the same assailant in the Matching Escrow.

We hope to create a reporting process that helps survivors take control back and determine what is best for them in their own time.

Using tech to create a world where rape is rare and inexcusable | Jessica Ladd | TEDxMidAtlantic

W: What questions do your partners/funders/policymakers never ask you, you wished they did…
JL: What would Callisto look like if it were available to every survivor in the country, and what would be the impact of that?

W: What was an unexpected suggestion by service users that opened up new perspectives?
JL: When speaking with schools, we learned the importance of making our site available to screen readers so that people with vision impairment can still use it. As a result, we have made accessibility a priority and have hired contractors to audit our site periodically to make sure that anyone can use it.

Jessica Ladd Founder Callisto
W: Can you share a short story of success that your venture triggered?
JL: We can say that the reporting rate on one of our Callisto pilot campuses has more than doubled, and we constantly have survivors writing in saying how much they like the idea of Callisto and how much they wish it had been available to them when they were in college.

W: If I tell you “monitoring your performance and measuring your social impact”, what are you telling me?
JL: We are total evaluation nerds, so we collect a lot of data on our impact. Through the aggregate data automatically collected by Callisto, we can see how many people are using the site and how they’re using it. Through surveys we’re distributing on our pilot campuses, we can see how many survivors know about Callisto and visited the site, what their experience was when they were there, and what impact it had on their wellbeing. Through focus groups and usability testing with college survivors, we can drill down into details, figuring out what is or isn’t working about any given page on the site. And through data from our school partners, from campus climate surveys and reporting stats, we can really get a broader sense of our impact over time on assault, rape culture, reporting, and survivor wellbeing.

W: Was there a pivotal moment in your programme?
JL: New pivotal moments keep cropping up, like Lady Gaga and Joe Biden at the Oscars, the Bill Cosby scandal, or the Rolling Stone piece and debate. Some advance the cause and others set it back. Bill Cosby has probably had the biggest impact on our work – it’s given people an anecdote to grab onto when thinking about the issue of serial perpetrators.

W: Who would you love to have at the table, in order to make ICT for women’s safety a mainstream topic in every day conversations?
JL: I would invite…

Connect to Jessica on Twitter @JessicaHLadd
Callisto logo
If you are part of an organisation that harnesses ICT/New Media to prevent violence against women, get in touch and connect to our #ICTforWomanity learning network, here.