Online sexual assault reporting program could come to UMN

The survivor-founded program, called Callisto, allows students to document their assault without reporting it.

Max Chao

A program that changes how victims report sexual assault could be coming to the University of Minnesota.

On April 10, the Minnesota Student Association passed a resolution in part calling for the University to implement Callisto, an online sexual assault reporting system spreading to campuses around the country. 

At most universities, students reporting sexual assault must submit a formal report to a Title IX office. Systems like this often deter students from reporting their assaults, said Sara Dam, director of campus partner success for Callisto.

“It’s re-traumatizing every time that person has to tell their story,” Dam said. 

With Callisto, students can log time-stamped details of their assault without formally submitting it, allowing them to file a detailed report when they feel ready.

“That’s something that is a huge step forward in terms of making the reporting process easier for survivors,” said Trish Palermo, president of MSA.  

In the system, students have the option to automatically notify the university’s Title IX coordinator if another person logs a report against the same perpetrator. 

Users of the program were five times more likely to report their assaults and about three times faster to file a report than nonusers in 2016-2017, according to data collected by the company. 

Since launching partnerships with two colleges in 2015, an additional 13 campuses have implemented the system — about eight of which have adopted Callisto last year, Dam said. 

The University of Denver, University of Oregon and Stanford University are among participating colleges. Minnesota would be the first Big 10 school to partner with the program. 

The program’s online nature makes it more accessible to students, said Leighia Fleming, Title IX coordinator for the University of San Francisco, one of the first adopters of the program. 

“Millennials … have steered more towards using tech as a platform for their everyday lives, so this allows the opportunity for us to meet our students where they [are],” Fleming said. 

Although students at Coe College in Iowa have been supportive of the program, some people showed apprehension toward its implementation last year, falsely believing it to be an anonymous reporting system that could be used to submit faulty reports, said Erik Albinson, the college’s Title IX coordinator.

“I really don’t think that happens in a statistically significant way,” Albinson said. “The purpose is not to increase the amount of anonymous reports … it’s about making sure someone who has gone through a traumatic situation has a gentler way to look at information and figure out what the next steps are.” 

The MSA resolution would need to be approved by University administration before Callisto could be implemented.

Callisto is working on expanding to more college campuses and is planning on launching a workplace program soon.