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Written Testimony of Jess Ladd Founder & CEO

1. What was the impetus for the initiative?

In college, I created my own major in public policy and human sexuality. I made this decision in part because I was sexually assaulted by a friend during my sophomore year. I ended up reporting my assault - over a year after it happened - and found the process of reporting to be more traumatic than the assault itself. I became my college's sex columnist, where I surveyed my fellow students about their sexual experiences. One of these surveys was about sexual violence, where I learned that my experience was not unique. I then created a chapter of a female sexuality empowerment group, and in this group learned that many of my friends had also been sexually assaulted. None of us had disclosed that experience before the group - we were too ashamed.

After graduating, I move to DC to work in sexual health policy. I was a federal HIV policy advocate, and then interned with the Obama White House Domestic Policy Council where I worked on HIV/AIDS and unintended pregnancy. While I loved policy's potential for widespread impact, I became quickly frustrated with, well, the politics of it all. And I felt ill-equipped to create policy when I didn't understand the research literature I was reading. So I headed to graduate school, finishing a Masters in Public Health and starting a PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins.

In 2013, I began reading stories about college sexual assault survivors speaking about how their schools failed to hold their perpetrators accountable. Reminded of my own assault, I started to think about how technology might have helped me when I need help the most. I couldn't think of a technology that would have prevented my assault, but I could easily think of how technology could have helped me with the most difficult part of the aftermath - my reporting experience. I began to sketch out a design for a sexual assault reporting website, and started conducting research with other college survivors to see if they liked the idea. They did, and in 2014 my nonprofit began to fundraise to create the system.

In 2015, we launched Callisto - an online sexual assault documentation and reporting platform that detects repeat offenders. It is the site that I wish had existed for me in college. As the system grew and we saw the impact, we realized that Callisto was what our nonprofit should really focus on.

2. How did it develop?

Before even starting to code Callisto, we spent over a year conducting formative research and talking to experts. We spoke with hundreds of college sexual assault survivors, lawyers, college administrators, security experts, advocates, psychologists, and researchers. We conducted surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews with survivors to make sure we really understood our end users and the diversity of experiences they can have.

Our first grant for the initiative, in 2015, came from With a team of four (which, in retrospect, was way too small), we built out the first version of Callisto Campus, and launched on two universities in the summer.

In 2016, we grew to four universities. In 2017, Callisto Campus went live on 12 universities and one comedy training center - the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Beginning in July 2017, we were flooded with emails asking us to expand Callisto to combat sexual harassment in the venture capital (VC) industry. Following these inquiries, we have spoken with over several dozen founders who had been sexually harassed, VCs themselves, Limited Partners concerned about the problem, and experts in diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley. In September 2017, we decided to expand beyond college campuses and beyond sexual assault.

Later this year, we will launch a new initiative - Callisto Expansion. While Callisto Campus works well within a single institution where there is high institutional trust and a strong Callisto-institution partnership, Callisto Expansion is designed to work in environments where there is no institution with clear jurisdiction or low victim trust in institutions. While Callisto Campus is focused on sexual assault, Callisto Expansion will address both sexual assault and professional sexual coercion.

3. Callisto Campus: What are the elements of the initiative? What do you think are the most important/effective strategies?

Callisto Campus: Problem we're trying to solve

An estimated 20% of women, 7% of men, and 24% of trans and gender nonconforming students are sexually assaulted during their college career. Less than 10% of college assault survivors report to administrators, local police, campus security, or other authorities. Those who do report, report an average of 11 months after their assault, making it hard to conduct an investigation. These investigations are not challenging because of an unknown perpetrator - 85% of college survivors know their assailant - but rather because investigators are not sure whether to believe that an assault actually took place. Only 6% of assaults reported to police end with the assailant spending a single day in prison, meaning that over 99% of them will not face serious consequences for their actions. This means there is practically no deterrent to sexual assault in the United States.

Of college sexual assaults, an estimated 90% are committed by repeat offenders. These repeat offenders assault an average of 6 times - and that's just before they graduate college. However, since reporting rates are so low, it's fairly unlikely that even repeat offenders are reported, so investigators often have no knowledge of a pattern of behavior of the accused when trying to make a fair judgement on a case. And without clear evidence (which is hard to gather if a report is made months after the assault) or a pattern of behavior, authorities are often afraid of taking on the liability of taking action against the accused. It's far more likely that a college will be sued expelling an accused assailant than sued by a victim of sexual assault.

Victims very rarely know whether or not they're the only one. We've talked to over 200 college sexual assault survivors, and a pattern emerged - for most, reporting was not worth it, unless they knew they were not the only one. Learning of another victim of the same assailant dramatically increased victims' desire to report, as well as their perceived probability of being believed if they reported.

Institutions rarely have the data they need about an individual case of sexual misconduct, and also lack high-quality data about the problem in aggregate.

Perpetrators have little incentive to change their behavior, if they believe they are in an environment where they will not get in trouble for their actions. Similarly, would-be perpetrators have little incentive to learn about the definition of sexual assault or misconduct if they believe they will never be held accountable for it.

It is hard for researchers to get high-quality data about perpetrators - who they are, how their behavior escalates over time, why they did what they did, what attempts were made to change their behavior, whether those behavioral interventions worked, or what caused their behavior in the first place. Right now, researchers have to rely on what perpetrators say about themselves, in an environment where they have every incentive to lie.

Callisto Campus: How it works

Callisto creates partnerships with college campuses, and charges a small set-up and annual fee. Colleges provide Callisto with information about their policies and local resources, and the contact information of their Title IX Coordinator. Colleges agree to promote Callisto to their students and provide training on Callisto to relevant staff.

Promotion and training:
Callisto sends colleges digital and print materials to help with training and promotion. This package includes training videos for RAs, posters to place around campus, pull-tab flyers for bathroom stalls, sample emails to send to the student body, and more. Callisto also sometimes sends speakers to campus or works with student groups on how to best get the word out on campus.

Each Callisto partner gets their own Callisto Campus website. Their website contains college-specific information about reporting options and resources and allow survivors to take three actions related to reporting their assault:

  1. Create a time-stamped, secure record of their assault, preserving evidence for later reporting;
  2. Report electronically by sending their assault record to their college; or
  3. Notify their college if another student names the same perpetrator (our "matching escrow").

This last feature, our matching system, is the first of its kind. To our knowledge, Callisto is the only reporting system for any crime that offers matching of perpetrators. We ask victims to enter the name and a series of unique identifiers (e.g. facebook URL) about their perpetrator. If more than one victim names the same offender, we send the verified contact information of both victims and the identity of the accused to the school. The school then follows up with victims to see if they want to participate in an investigation. At that time, victims can decide whether they want to send in their full time-stamped record to aid the investigation.

Twice a year, we provide campus partners with an aggregate data report. These reports give them a sense of the overall usage of their Callisto site, and also provide them with aggregate data about the recorded and unreported assaults stored in the system.

Callisto Campus: Theory of change

In the aftermath of sexual assault, Callisto Campus equips higher education institutions to rebuild broken trust by enabling survivors to make the reporting decision best for them and by improving the outcome of reports.

We help survivors make the decision right for them and increase the likelihood that disclosure will lead to action. Callisto provides survivors with clearly written information about their reporting options and what process to expect if they report. The website also gives them 3 options related to reporting their assault: (1) securely save a written record of what happened to them, preserving evidence while they decide what to do, (2) report directly to the authorities to start an investigation, or (3) just save their record for now, but report automatically to authorities if someone else names the same assailant.

We help institutions/authorities by: (1) providing them with higher-quality timestamped reports, (2) flagging serial offenders, and (3) providing them with aggregate data from unreported assaults. This enables them to take action at both the individual level (against perpetrators) and a systems level (by creating data-driven prevention strategies). Right now, institutions have to investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct where it's one person's word against another, and where both parties are going off of year-old memory.

With Callisto, institutions are more likely to know whether the accused person has been accused by more than one victim (because of Callisto's matching system), and can use testimony that was recorded closer to the time of the incident and in an organized fashion. Callisto's recording form is based off the forensic experiential trauma interview (FETI), the best-practice way to get high-quality information from victims of trauma while triggering them as little as possible. Right now, institutions also do not have great data about what sexual misconduct looks like in their community, making it hard to design effective prevention programs. Callisto provides detailed aggregate information from the stored unreported records - like what time of year assaults are occurring, class year involvement, or what percentage involve alcohol.

We target perpetrators and would-be perpetrators by: (1) stopping serial offenders earlier on, and (2) by creating a deterrent to sexual assault. According to research by Dr. David Lisak, if serial offenders were stopped after their 2nd assault, we could prevent 59% of college sexual assaults - just by halting repeat offenders.

4. Callisto Expansion: What are the elements of the initiative? What do you think are the most important/effective strategies?

Callisto Expansion: Problem we're trying to solve

Sexual misconduct is far too common and rarely reported. When misconduct happens in professional settings, victims often blame themselves, don't trust that HR will believe them or take action, and worry that they will be retaliated against and their reputation tarnished. Some of this misconduct happens within a company, where both parties involved are employed by the same organization, and at the workplace. A lot of misconduct can happen though outside of the workplace (e.g. conferences), among individuals who are not employed by the same entity but where this is still an unequal professional power dynamic (e.g. investor and founder, or actor auditioning for a director), or among temporary contractors or freelance individuals and their clients. Victims are often unclear on where to go, or don't trust the institutions that they are aware of (e.g. HR or the police). Often, victims feel that they have to choose between reporting and their career.

As we've seen with the #metoo movement, power begins to shift when victims realize they are not alone.

Callisto Expansion: How it works

We will create a "matching escrow" that allows victims of sexual harassment to hold their identities in escrow until another victim of the same harasser comes forward, which then triggers both victims being put in touch with the same Callisto legal advocate. This legal advocate will then connect victims to each other and help them decide what to do next.

We will launch this initiative in the tech startup ecosystem in late 2018, but plan to expand to the larger tech industry in 2019 and begin expansion to additional industries as early as February 2019.

Callisto will create partnerships with entities that want to (a) provide access to Callisto to their community and/or (b) receive reports from victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment. Partners could be employers, unions, incubators, conferences, the police or district attorney, government agencies, professional associations, etc. Callisto will work with some of these partners for free, and charge others as customers.

Example: Callisto partners with Organization ABC. Organization ABC wants its employees to have access to Callisto and wants to be able to receive reports from employees via Callisto. Organization ABC's Board also wants to be able to receive reports from employees via Callisto in the event that employees have a problem with HR. Organization ABC becomes a customer of Callisto.

Promotion and training:
Callisto will work with partners to ensure awareness of and comprehension of Callisto in their community. This will involve a combination of emails from Callisto, emails from Callisto partners, online promotion, and events and trainings.

Example: Callisto and Organization ABC create an awareness plan together. Before the partnership is announced, Callisto provides training to Organization ABC's HR and managers on what Callisto is and how it works. On the day the partnership launches, Organization ABC hosts Callisto to speak to their employees about how Callisto works and answer any questions. Organization ABC sends an email to all employees letting them know they can use Callisto and links employees to the Callisto website and training videos. Callisto sends an individual email to each employee allowing them to activate their account. Organization ABC ensures that Callisto is linked to in their internal employee portal and is referenced in their employee handbook and in other relevant policies. They distribute posters around the workplace about Callisto. Periodically, Callisto and Organization ABC send emails to employees reminding them Callisto is an option and how it works.

Product and services:
Callisto Expansion will be invite-only, to begin. Users receiving a Callisto invite will be able to create an account. They will then be able to create records of sexual assault or professional sexual coercion, enter their own contact information, and enter the name and a series of unique identifiers about their perpetrator.

If more than one user names the same perpetrator, they will be contacted by a Callisto legal advocate. This advocate will present victims with their different options to protect their community and the pros and cons of each action, including the option to speak to the other victim. If both victims consent, the legal advocate will put them in touch with each other so they can decide what they want to do next. This legal advocate will not conduct an investigation, take anything to court, or make anything public. They are a catalyst for information and a referral service.

Future versions of Callisto Expansion will also enable victims to report without a match - allowing them to submit electronic complaints to a range of partners and learn about the specific policies & procedures of each partner (e.g. their employer's HR department or the police).

Example: When Organization ABC employees receive their activation email, they can click the link in the email to activate their Callisto account. They can then record incidents of sexual misconduct they faced - whether it be from fellow employees, Board members or investors, or entirely outside of their current workplace. They can read about their different options for confronting their perpetrator or escalating their case - whether to HR, the Board, the EEOC, the police, or the press. They can learn about applicable statutes of limitations and how to figure out what institutions can take action on their report. They can submit their report to HR or the Board, or potentially to the EEOC, the state, or police. [Note - we are still exploring whether and how integration with government agencies and the criminal justice system would work.]

Employee X enters a record into Callisto about their current manager, Perpetrator Y. They don't want to report to HR because they think that Perpetrator Y might just be a really great person who made a dumb mistake. Plus they're worried that they might be fired if they report Perpetrator Y, and that then Perpetrator Y will ruin Employee X's reputation in the industry.

Organization DEF is a Callisto customer too. Perpetrator Y used to work at Organization DEF. One of Organization DEF's employees, Employee Z, used to be managed by Perpetrator Y but never reported to HR. Now that Employee Z has Callisto as an option, Employee Z enters Perpetrator Y's name and LinkedIn URL into Callisto, to see if there is a match.

The Callisto system recognizes that a match has been found. A Callisto legal advocate is alerted about the match, and reaches out to Employee X and Employee Z separately. Both Employees decide they want to share information with each other. Once Employee X hears about Employee Z's experience, Employee X stops blaming him/herself. Employee X reports to Organization ABC's HR, and mentions Perpetrator Y's previous history with Employee Z. Employee Z offers to talk with Organization ABC's HR, fully understanding the risks involved in coming forward.

Based on an investigation, including interviews with both Employee X and Employee Z, Organization ABC fires Perpetrator Y and reports Perpetrator Y to the industry ethics board.

Callisto Expansion: Theory of change

Victim choice:
Victims often don't know what all their options are. Callisto Expansion is designed to help victims understand the full range of their options, from HR to police to the press to the EEOC to confronting their perpetrator. We help victims understand which of these options they can pursue, given their case and the case of linked victims. We help them understand the possible outcomes - good and bad - of each option. And we empower them to choose whether they want to pursue any of those options, enabling them to achieve their ideal outcome, whatever that may be.

Victim connection:

We connect victims of serial perpetrators together in a way that's never been done before. Victims who know they aren't the only one are less likely to blame themselves and more likely to want to take action. Victims that take action together are more likely to be successful.

Improve existing options by creating a competitive market:
Right now, victims often feel like going to HR is their only option. Functionally, these institutions have a monopoly over reports of sexual misconduct. With the #metoo movement, this is changing, as victims realize that the press and social media are another possible avenue for justice and community protection. HR now has to be a more appealing option than the press or social media, if they want to know about reports before the public does. This puts economic pressure on HR to create more victim-friendly reporting channels, policies, and procedures. Callisto will help enable this competitive market by creating transparency for victims (and institutions) on the number of options victims have available to them.

Create new options by enabling peer-to-peer accountability:
Many victims confront their perpetrators about their behavior, in the hope that if perpetrators realize the impact they're having, they will change. In these situations, many perpetrators make a promise to change. However, victims have no way of knowing if this promise was kept. With Callisto, it becomes possible for victims to learn whether confronting their perpetrator worked or not. This will likely make it more appealing for victims to try to confront their perpetrators directly, and will make those types of peer-based interventions more effective, as all parties involved will know there is an accountability system.

Evaluate victim response to options:
After a victim chooses a given option (going to HR, going to police, going to a particular journalist, filing with the EEOC, confronting their perpetrator in a particular way), we will be able to ask them how their experience was. We can then feed that information back to other victims, creating an internal rating system where we can systematically crowdsource knowledge among a group that is typically hard to reach. This will help victims to make a more informed choice, and enable us to feed data back to institutions and the general public about best practices in responding to victims.

Evaluate effectiveness of interventions:
It is very difficult right now to know whether any given prevention program, HR lecture, or peer-to-peer confrontation resulted in behavior change on the part of perpetrators or would-be perpetrators. If we know that a victim pursued a given option to try to change the behavior of a given offender, we will then be able to assess whether the perpetrator appears to have changed their behavior after a given intervention. In aggregate, this will allow us to help assess recidivism rates of sexual misconduct and the effectiveness of different prevention programming or behavior change attempts.

5. Do you have any measurable outcomes?

Student victims that visit their school's Callisto Campus website are five times more likely to report than those who don't. Users reporting electronically via Callisto campus report three times faster than the national average. And this school year, 15% of victims entering our matching escrow matched with another victim of the same perpetrator.

6. What's the end-game and how will you get there?

We envision a world where sexual assault is rare and survivors are supported. We envision authorities having the data they need to prevent assault, and the information they need to identify and stop perpetrators. We envision a reporting experience that is empowering for survivors and that rebuilds their sense of agency rather than taking it away all over again.

We will create one website, for any victims of sexual assault or professional sexual coercion in the United States, where they can (1) learn about their options for action, (2) securely save a timestamped record of what happened to them, and (3) safely connect with other victims of the same perpetrator and legal support.