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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, June 5, 2015

The University of San Francisco adopts an innovative new reporting tool, an in-depth look at the facts of false rape reports, and a look back at gains made by student activists over the past year.

USF Launches Online Reporting Tool Callisto

A while back we reported on a new online reporting tool, Callisto, whose proponents believed could dramatically improve the experience of victim/survivors who wanted to report their assaults. Now, for the first time, a university has made plans to use Callisto to allow its students to report sexual violence. The school in question is the University of San Francisco, an institution which has taken the lead on sexual violence prevention in the past, notably collaborating with CampusClarity to produce the first Think About It program. According to USF Vice Provost of Student Life Peter Novak, Callisto can “really change culture” for reporting on the USF campus. The app, which was developed by nonprofit Sexual Health Innovations, has numerous features that could be helpful for a victim/survivor of sexual assault, including the ability to make a time stamped report that they can choose to send in later or if the same perpetrator is named in a subsequent report.

The Cold, Hard Facts of False Rape Reports

It is sometimes claimed that false rape reports could represent anywhere from 1.5% to 90% of the total number of reported rapes. While that range—all but meaningless in its width—may have once represented the extent of our knowledge about the prevalence and nature of false rape reports, today numerous studies have provided a much clearer picture of the nature of this particular problem. This piece from Vox takes a look at studies that took a more rigorous approach to determining whether a report was false or not, either by looking at reports from police who had been trained on the definition of a false report or by investigating the facts of a case to determine whether the evidence did indeed suggest a false report. These studies, taken together, support the growing consensus amongst those who follow issues of sexual violence that false reports account for between 2% and 8% of total reports of rape. They also reveal some interesting, potentially important trends in those false reports. Nearly 80% of false reports “fit the definition of an ‘aggravated rape’”—one involving a weapon, multiple assailants, or injury to the victim/survivor. Almost 50% of false reports described the perpetrator as a stranger as opposed to an acquaintance. Most reports were filed within a day of the alleged incident. According to one researcher, false rape reports were more likely to provide a “clear and coherent” timeline of the attack. These facts suggest that individuals who make false rape reports tend to stick to a narrative based on common misperceptions about how most rape occurs. It also suggests that many of the features of a report traditionally seen as potential “red flags” of a false claim—a delayed report, a confused and confusing story, situations involving intoxications or perpetrators known by the victim/survivor—may in fact be just the opposite.

Big Gains for Activists in 2015

Despite the numerous stories we cover in this space about the work that still needs to be done, there have been real successes over the past few years for those working to prevent campus sexual violence. This piece from the Huffington Post covers notable successes of a very important player in this fight—student activists. These include efforts to improve campus safety and school policies, the successes of the “It’s On Us” campaign, and reforms made by schools at the behest of student activists.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, April 17, 2015

This week we have an app that will streamline reporting on college campuses, a new book on a campus sexual assault case by the author of Into the Wild, and a diverse collection of viewpoints on how to achieve progress on preventing campus sexual assault.

New App Promises to Improve Reporting of Sexual Assaults

Three higher education institutions are expected to pilot a new system for reporting sexual assaults. Developed by Sexual Health Innovations, the system is called Callisto after a nymph from Greek mythology. The system offers students information about how to report a sexual assault to their college and local law enforcement agencies. If students choose to report, they can do so through Callisto. If they choose not to report, they can still record information about the assault through the system. Although the school will not be able to see this record without the student’s permission, the school will be able to see aggregate statistical information about users of the system.

Importantly, Callisto has an additional feature that helps schools identify repeat offenders. Students who create a record on Callisto but choose not to file a report with their institution, can opt into a matching feature, which will send the school the reporter’s name and the name of the alleged assailant if someone else files a report on Callisto involving the same assailant. Some commentators, however, expressed concern over the privacy issues and legal protections for the system’s users. As Laura Dunn, a lawyer by training and the founder of an advocacy group for Survivors of sexual assault, explained: “As a survivor and as an activist, I think this is amazing… as a lawyer, I am cautious.”

Bestselling Author to Release Book on Campus Rape

Next week, Jon Krakauer, author of the best sellers “Into Thin Air” and “Into the Wild,” is releasing a book on campus rape. Krakauer’s new book, “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” discusses multiple sexual assault cases at the University of Montana (UM). UM was the subject of yearlong federal investigation into its handling of sexual assault complaints. Two years ago, UM entered into a Resolution Agreement with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice. The Joint Letter of Findings called the Resolution Agreement with UM a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault.” The Agreement provides information on important issues such as confidentiality, campus climate surveys, and standards of proof in campus adjudication processes. For the book, Krakauer relied on documentation of the investigations and adjudication of these incidents, as well as talks with psychologists about the effects of rape on survivors. According to the Wall Street Journal, “One takeaway from ‘Missoula’ is that every incident of alleged rape is different, and ambiguities abound. Mr. Krakauer provides no sweeping conclusions.”

9 Perspectives on What Will Signal Progress on Campus Sexual Assault

The Chronicle of Higher Education has collected diverse responses to the question, “what will signal progress on sexual assault at colleges and universities?” The viewpoints range from providing survivors with the tools they need to heal, to ensuring a fair process for everyone involved, to beginning prevention training before college. The contributors include lawyers, advocates, and administrators, including The President of the University of Montana. All of the pieces point to the important leadership role schools play in addressing this issue through training and strong policies and procedures around sexual violence. As Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, the co-founders of End Rape on Campus, suggest in their essay: “Change will come only when colleges lead it, rather than follow the efforts of the students who expect their guidance.”

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, October 24, 2014

Here’s the latest news in sexual violence prevention efforts.

What Happens to Perpetrators Who Transfer?

Plenty has been made of American colleges and universities’ failure to investigate and hold responsible perpetrators of sexual assault. This Huffington Post piece asks a different question. What’s to stop a perpetrator who is being investigated, or has been held responsible for their actions, from transferring to a different institution, where they will have the opportunity to perpetrate the same crimes all over again? The answer, unfortunately, appears to be nothing. Very few schools forward information about completed or ongoing disciplinary investigations involving students transferring to other institutions, and few if any schools request such information when accepting transfers. The piece notes a number of cases in which students investigated or even expelled for sexual violence, sometimes at multiple schools, were accepted at other institutions where they went on to continue to commit more assaults. While a school cannot prevent a student from withdrawing, or enforce sanctions after they have transferred, activists in the article suggest that, in light of research showing that many perpetrators of sexual assault are serial predators, some sort of system should be implemented to standardize what information about students’ disciplinary records is shared when they transfer from one institution to another.

Could a New Online Tool Increase Reporting?

That’s what the would-be creators of a new online-reporting tool called Callisto believe. The tool, designed by nonprofit company Sexual Health Innovations with input from anti-sexual violence groups, including Know Your IX, Faculty Against Rape, and End Rape on Campus, would allow victim/survivors to report their assaults online. They could then choose to submit the report or not submit, in which case it would be saved it as a time-stamped report. It would also show victim/survivors whether the accused perpetrator had been implicated in other incidents. Sexual Health Innovation’s Founder and Executive Director, Jessica Ladd, says that interviews that went into the tool’s development suggest it could triple reporting. Callisto, which has not yet been fully developed, is currently fundraising on crowdfunding-platform Crowdrise, where it has blown past an initial $10,000 goal. The folks behind Callisto plan to continue fundraising, estimating that development will ultimately cost around $200,000. If you want to donate or learn more, follow the link above.

Federal Sexual Violence Investigations Up 50%

On the topic of increased reporting, the number of federal investigations of schools suspected of mishandling sexual assault cases has increased by 50% since the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights first began releasing the list of schools being investigated. The list of schools, which includes UC Berkeley, the University of Virginia, and Princeton University, has increased from 59 schools to 89 since May. According to Assistant Education Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon , “The list is growing partly because we’ve told people we will be there for them. And there’s value in coming to us.” While the growth in the number of federal investigations may represent a positive development in that respect, it also represents a challenge, given the lengthy process of investigating a school’s sexual assault response and determining what steps should be taken to correct any shortcomings. Investigations have been known to take as long as four years from start to finish.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, August 8, 2014

Combating sexual assault on college campuses is no easy task. Here are three stories about what administrators, coaches, and app developers are (or should be) doing differently to create real change.

How to Help the GPAs of Victim/Survivors

The fact that victim/survivors of sexual assault often struggle academically following their assault is frequently discussed in testimonies, yet, like so many aspects of college sexual assault, very little has been done to address the problem. Victim’s rights and Title IX attorney Cari Simon discusses possible solutions to the problem in this piece, pointing out the importance of the issue—bad grades that are the result of the traumatic aftermath of sexual violence can limit a student’s future, preventing them from being hired for desired jobs or admitted to prestigious grad schools. Simon suggests schools take steps to make it easier to implement academic accommodations for victim/survivors, restore transcripts damaged by the aftermath of an assault, and be proactive about spotting downward trends that could be evidence of an unreported assault.

Football Coaches Taking the Right Steps on Assault

We’ve seen too many stories about schools, coaches, and athletic departments mishandling alleged sexual assaults committed by athletes. That’s why it is particularly encouraging to see this story of two prominent college football coaches taking their programs in the right direction. Head coach Charlie Strong of the University of Texas has suspended a pair of wide receivers indefinitely after their arrests on felony sexual assault charges, and University of Alabama coach Nick Saban has included a speaker who will talk about violence against women in his preseason camp. While these steps may seem small, they are both crucial and a move in the right direction.

Apps to Stop Sexual Assault

Could a smartphone app help prevent sexual assault? The White House, Loyola University in Chicago, and Williams College in Massachusetts all think so. Recently a variety of apps have been released to help students avoid assault or deal with its aftermath. Circle of 6, created by Tech 4 Good, a human rights mobile start-up, makes it easy to signal your location and what kind of help you need to six predetermined contacts. It is currently being used at Williams College in Massachusetts as part of a two-year pilot program. Other tech solutions to campus assault include Here For You, which provides resources for victim/survivors and their friends, LiveSafe, which lets students track on-campus crime in real time, and Callisto, an online tool for reporting sexual assault.

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