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.
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.”
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.”
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.”