Content Warning: The following story includes mentions of sexual assault.
As sexual assault cases continue to make headines at USC, some survivors look for anonymous ways to report their cases and find adequate support.
Callisto, a non-profit founded in 2011, is designed specifically for college students who want a private alternative to reporting sexual assault to their school and is open to any person who’s experienced sexual assault. According to a 2019 survey by the Association of American Universities, 1 in 3 female undergraduates at USC said they were sexually assaulted, which is higher than the national average of 1 in 4.
“It was made by survivors for survivors—half preventative, half as a tool that hopefully everyone will have access to, to prevent further problems down the line and create a space where people have legal and mental health resources,” said Natalia Parraz, president of USC Flow.
But still, not many students interviewed on campus know about Callisto.
Huong Nguyen, a freshman studying intelligence and cyber operations, hadn’t heard of the website before but thinks it is a good initiative.
“I think the [platform] could create a very empowering community in itself,” said Nguyen in an interview.
USC has an online reporting platform for students to report sexual assault and other forms of misconduct through Help and Hotline, they can also report directly to the Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX by emailing email@example.com, according to a university statement. However, Callisto is not listed as a resource in recent campuswide emails following numerous recent sexual assault allegations on the Row. In that regard, the university wrote in an email that “USC does not have a contract with Callisto; it expired in August 2020.”
According to Callisto, the platform is not a reporting system, but provides survivors “a secure, timestamped, and encrypted digital space” to record the details of the assault. The form is also available as a Word document for students at non-affiliated campuses.
“I think it’s a good idea to give survivors a way to connect with other people so they know they’re not alone,” said Lauren Wehn, a freshman studying intelligence and cyber operations, in an interview. “I also feel like you would feel safer doing that than going to USC or DPS since there’s more anonymity.”
Additionally, the platform uses a matching system to detect if someone has been named repeatedly as an offender. The system also connects survivors with other people who have been sexually assaulted by the same person. It does not notify the school or Title IX office, according to Callisto’s website.
If a match is found, Callisto Legal Options Counselors (LOCs), third party attorneys with experience working with survivors of sexual assault, reach out to each survivor to connect them with each other to coordinate action, if both parties are interested. LOCs keep discussions under attorney-client privilege and guide survivors in the process of reporting to their school, obtaining a restraining order, contacting the police and other methods of seeking justice.
Recently, Flow introduced Callisto to USC fraternity Zeta Beta Tau. During the presentation, Parraz said that having Callisto as a resource for speaking up and taking coordinated and informed action—whether that means seeking health services, reporting to their school later on, confronting the offender, etc.—would empower survivors and could prevent the majority of sexual assault from occurring.
Through Flow, she wants to spread awareness about Callisto as a resource for survivors. Flow has also introduced Callisto to USC’s professional fraternity Delta Phi Epsilon, where Parraz also serves as president.
For more information about Callisto and to learn how to get involved, visit MyCallisto.org or follow them on Instagram and Twitter. To use USC’s free, confidential Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services, call 213-740-9355.