University considers new sexual assault reporting software

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Photo Credit: Kelly Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Last summer, UT alumna Tara DeMarco called on the University to implement a new sexual assault reporting system called Callisto, which has since been under consideration by UT’s administration and Title IX department.

Callisto poses several features that differ from Symplicity Advocate, the current reporting system in use at the University. 

Two of Callisto’s primary distinguishing characteristics are a suspect matching system and ability to provide victims the option to seal their report and notify the University of the incident at a later date. 

“[Symplicity Advocate] is not designed for survivors,” said DeMarco, an assault victim. “It’s basically designed so that colleges can sort of check a box and say ‘Yes, we do have online reporting’, but Callisto is designed after interviewing hundreds and hundreds of survivors.”

Talks between University officials, with Chancellor William McRaven at the helm, and Callisto representatives have centered around the possible advantages of suspect matching, although acquiring the benefits of this feature may be challenging. In order to match up suspects, a unique identifier such as a UT email address or Facebook link would be required in the report’s description, Title IX coordinator LaToya Smith said.

“The one thing that was the most appealing for us was the matching feature, but the challenge that we had is that we do not require students to all have the same kind of email address,” Smith said, referring to students use of any email address besides their assigned UT email account. She added that if there were a system that made the process of finding a unique identifier simpler, installation would be more likely.

The option to seal one’s report and submit it at a delayed time is a second key feature of Callisto, something DeMarco said can encourage a higher rate of reporting from victims who may be afraid of sharing what happened to them. Although withholding the report from the University may provide solace to victims, Smith said it prevents the Title IX office from being able to do their job.

DeMarco said the lingering doubts or fears that make victims hesitant to report the incident, affirming that Callisto is better catered to fostering a culture of reporting. 

Undeclared freshman Hailey Thompson said if a victim wanted to file a report, they should have the option to do it now or later, and the University should be more open to accepting some cases at a delayed time.

“If you have to do it either now or not at all, you’re not getting 100 percent of the victims’ stories and files,” Thompson said. “If you’re able to seal and submit it later, you’re still getting that story that might not have been submitted if you have to submit it right away.”

For now, efforts to combat sexual violence have been concentrated on the campus climate survey and upcoming focus groups that Smith hopes will guide the University in enacting a more tailored approach to sexual assault. 

Smith said if Callisto is part of that change, the likely installation time would this summer.