Throughout the last year, the #MeToo movement has brought attention to the pervasive issue of sexual assault and harassment on campuses and in workplaces across the world, yet many survivors are still afraid to report what happened to them, fearing they will be ignored, vilified, or attacked.
Two apps, JDoe and Callisto, are trying to tackle this issue head on by providing safe avenues for people to report sexual misconduct. JDoe aims to give victims or witnesses a platform to share their story, identify repeat offenders, and access lawyers.
Callisto provides similar services but is targeted specifically at college campuses. The app, started in 2015, is now available on 13 campuses across the U.S. and serves more than 149,000 students. The developer is planning to expand the service to workplaces this year and has already started work with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
According to statistics from Callisto, 20 percent of women, 7 percent of men, and 24 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming students are sexually assaulted during their college career.
"An estimated 90% of sexual assaults are committed by repeat perpetrators. Over 85% of college survivors know their assailant, and less than 10% report to their school or the police," they say on their website.
Callisto's university-specific platform gives students three ways to record their experience. They can write a secure, encrypted report about what happened to them that even Callisto's own team does not have access to.
Survivors can also note the identity of their attacker and match their name against a database of reports. Callisto says that if there is a match, "their Title IX coordinator will reach out to each survivor individually." The third option is a report that can be sent directly to your school's administrators that will trigger an investigation or administrative consultation.
The app's founder and CEO, Jess Ladd, said in an annual report that she was sexually assaulted in college and found the reporting process "as traumatizing as the assault."
"Years later, she realized technology could introduce opportunities to facilitate healing, justice, and support in a way that simply didn't exist. Callisto was born," they wrote. Callisto is now partnered with Stanford University, St. John's University, Pomona College, and many other schools across the country.
JDoe does many of the same things as Callisto, but because it was built for workplace sexual misconduct, the app is focused more on pairing survivors with lawyers and prosecutors.
Its aim is to allow victims to circumvent the often traumatizing experience of dealing with police officers or HR officials and provide an easy, safe way to record your experience, save any evidence, speak with lawyers and identify whether your attacker is a repeat offender.
As Callisto noted, it takes many survivors nearly a year to be able to report their situation to police, administrators or their HR office. JDoe says they "ensure survivors and witnesses complete control over their data." Through names, Facebook profile or email addresses, JDoe users can identify their attacker and record the location of their assault.
"Nothing will be sent to anyone, ever, until a user specifically requests it. Our encryption algorithms guarantee your privacy. Even if compelled to do so by a warrant, JDoe would be unable to read your data and hand it over," it said.
JDoe creator Ryan Soscia told NPR that the idea for the app came from a friend who described his own assault and later found out his attacker molested ten other teenagers.
"We can find those connections exponentially faster. So the hope is we're going to prevent these types of crimes from happening. And the idea that that could have stopped this from happening to ten other people...that's really powerful." he said in the NPR interview.
Both apps are free for people to use, with JDoe getting most of its funding from lawyers who pay $1,000 per year to sign up and take on cases through the service. Callisto is built specifically for each school or company that buys its service, costing between $10,000 and $30,000 according to NPR.
Just last month, employment law attorney Marc Garbar founded the app HarassmentLaw, which provides access to lawyers 24/7 for those who have been victims of workplace sexual harassment. He told Download.com that "[T]he #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought the closet culture of harassment into the forefront of American conversation."
Stanford University student Shanta Katipamula was part of the push behind her school's adoption of Callisto, and she said she was working "towards a world where campus sexual assault is eradicated, but in the meantime we must also provide adequate resources for survivors who are sexually assaulted."
"Callisto is informed by extensive survivor research, making it a truly survivor centric reporting mechanism, something that is missing from most current reporting options. In my research, I found Callisto to be a one-of-a-kind tool that placed the needs of survivors first while also providing data for universities that could help prevent assaults," she said.
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- JDoe gives users access to lawyers and prosecutors, while Callisto allows college students to record their experiences and report them to administrators.
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