New encrypted technology allows survivors of sexual abuse to anonymously report perpetrators – The Seahawk

Map of campus emergency call boxes. (UNCW)

In October 2023, Callisto, a non-profit organization, launched an app called Callisto’s Vault to be available to all students in the United States and its territories. The app is free for anyone with an active .edu email. Callisto helps students report cases of sexual assault and allows users to connect with other victims. The goal is to protect the user’s personal information by allowing students to submit allegations without identifying themselves and to choose what information is stored in the application.

Callisto Vault is an encrypted platform that allows victims of sexual assault to safely record sexual assault, even if they choose not to report it. Encrypted technology uses cryptography – encoding the information so that the intended recipient is the only recipient and prevents unauthorized parties from accessing the information – if they do, the party will not be able to read the information. By creating an encrypted account, Callisto does not know the identity of users and will not report any stored information without the consent of the individual, including to the administration at their university.

On campuses, there is a period called the “Red Zone,” the period between the first day of classes and Thanksgiving break, where about 50 percent of campus assaults are likely to occur. According to the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network (RAINN), among college students, 26.4% of women and 6.8% of men experienced rape or sexual violence through physical force, violence or deprivation.

According to RAINN, 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police, meaning more than two out of three go unreported; one of the main reasons for not reporting is fear of retaliation and protecting the victim from further abuse by the perpetrator.

Saraifa Boling, director of programs and strategic engagement at Callisto, said the reason for creating Callisto’s Vault stems from the statistic that 90 percent of college assaults are initiated by serial offenders, who on average assault up to six times before graduation. The app also offers victims the security and privacy to report their assault. Using the incident log in the app allows users to document the incident as they remember it. This information can be valuable if the user decides to take legal action, as it allows their legal representatives access to relevant details. This step ensures that victims do not have to recount their experiences of assault during court proceedings.

Callisto’s Vault also offers a matchmaking system that allows users to connect with other survivors who were assaulted by the same perpetrator – including on other campuses. According to Bolling, 15% of matches are inter-school matches. To participate in the match, both users must agree to connect. Before matching, there is a three-step process: first, the individual can select the country where the incident occurred; the second is to provide any unique identifiers such as social media and add how the person wants to be contacted if there is a match. If the match is confirmed, the third step is for both parties to receive free legal advice.

“What [the matching system] can be helpful in providing confirmation that their experience was sexual abuse, which can be helpful for the survivor’s personal confirmation,” Bolling said. “And that they’re not the only person who’s been hurt by the perpetrator and that this is a pattern of behavior for that person … matching can also help their justice outcomes if they [the victim] decide to pursue something official.’

While completing the report, users can select from a list of referral options, including therapeutic, legal, Title IX, and medical services provided by Callisto. From there, people have the choice to report the incident to either their campus or local law enforcement.

Bolling said people have complete control over what information they wish to share and how they choose to share the incident. In the absence of a formal report, the incident log will be time stamped and retained for potential future use. If the user decides to seek legal advice, the information is protected by attorney-client privilege and will not be shared with Callisto administration. If the user decides to stop using the application, he can choose to edit or delete the stored information at his discretion.

One piece of advice from Bolling is “because they [the reader] read this article, whoever comes to mind, whether it’s a friend, family member, peer, someone they’ve interacted with, who knows a survivor, let them know about the work Callisto is doing.”

Additional resources at UNCW include Title IX and the Collaborative Assault Response and Training (CARE) office. CARE Office Director Jen August believes that Callisto Vault can be used as an alternative to in-person reporting, especially as confidential advocates have limitations that CARE Office can offer when connecting people to the same perpetrator – even if the same name attracts the attention of reporters.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” Augustus said. “We may hear the name of the same person who has harmed more than one person, and it can be difficult to navigate these situations if someone doesn’t want to report it to the police or talk to Title IX to explore these reporting options.”

One option the CARE office team is exploring is directing students who may wish to be matched with other victims to the Callisto app as another resource. At UNCW, the CARE office offers resources if an individual does not wish to use the app, including emotional support, a 24/7 hotline, navigating campus situations, and more.

If you see anything, call 911 for immediate help. You can contact UNCW’s CARE office at 910-962-CARE. Emergency assistance is also available by calling the CARE representative at 910-512-4821.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *