Disrupting the Secret Culture of Campus Rape

Project Callisto wins global #Tech4Good Challenge

Jessica Ladd was named winner of the first-ever #Tech4Good Challenge at the Viva Technology Paris Conference on July 2 for Project Callisto, an innovative college campus sexual assault digital reporting system. Photo: Chris Howard.

More than 20 million students are enrolled in U.S. universities, both public and private, and more than half are female (57 percent). Hiding within that population of young women pursuing their dreams in the wealthiest and most powerful country on Earth is a secret of national shame: One in five will be the victim of a sexual assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Let that sink in: More than two million young American women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted each year.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are incensed by this national problem and share a determined goal to expose the hidden secret of campus rape. The Washington Post shed light on the growing intensity at the White House to address this issue in its July 3 article, Biden and Obama rewrite the rulebook on college sexual assaults.

Rape is a vile violent physical invasion that leaves an indelible mark on a person’s soul. It is so deeply disturbing on so many levels that the shame suffered causes most victims to never report the crime. Less than 10 percent will come forward. Of those who do, they wait nearly a year (on average 11 months) to notify authorities. The overall lack of reporting, and long window of time it takes for those who do, affords assailants opportunity to victimize others. Ninety percent do.

Let that sink in: 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses are conducted by repeat offenders.

The White House campaign to raise awareness of this vitally important health issue has a new champion. Jessica Ladd leads a team at Project Callisto, a college sexual assault reporting system she created following her own experience. Ladd, who is an epidemiologist and sexual health activist, was assaulted by a friend and then discovered the difficulties inherent in the process of reporting.

“I felt like everything was spinning out of control,” Ladd told Pacific Standard Magazine. “This situation [reporting the crime], which was supposed to be empowering and the right thing to do, was rapidly devolving into one of the most traumatizing events of my life.”

Ladd set out to disrupt the culture of campus rape by empowering its victims with a digital system that successfully navigates the rape reporting obstacle course, which too often stigmatizes the victim and serves as its own deterrent to reporting the crime. Ladd says that 99 percent of sexual assault assailants get away with their crimes, largely due to a consequence-free predatory environment. That’s a stunning statistic. But Ladd believes Callisto’s unique reporting capabilities will help drastically reduce that number.

A jury of judges in Paris agreed with Ladd. Callisto was named winner of the first-ever global #Tech4Good Challenge at the Viva Technology Paris Conference on July 2. More than 45,000 attended the conference over three days, including 5,000 startups and the biggest names in tech, with more than 10 million euros invested in companies.

Watch Jessica Ladd’s mesmerizing 6-minute TED Talk on Project Callisto.
“I’m honored!” Ladd said. “This work is personal and universal. With the issue of sexual assault and rape, knowing that you’re not the only one changes everything. It means you’re not going forward alone.”

Callisto competed against 25 hand-picked startups with global impact missions and presented to a jury of 100 investors and business executives. Amplifier hosted the #Tech4Good competition and served as mentor and coach to competing teams. Alongside its partners, Next World and Le comptoir de l’innovation, Amplifier assembled a showcase of some of the boldest innovations in tech for social good across a variety of industry sectors.

“We are in the golden era of philanthropy with modern tools and technology helping us solve the world’s most pressing challenges,” said Amplifier CEO Allison Duncan. “This innovative conference will spur best-in-class technology that will help create a better world.”
L-R: Allison Duncan, CEO Amplifier; Chantal Buard, Head of Digital at Amplifier; Jessica Ladd, CEO Sexual Health Innovations; Rachel Cook, CEO Seeds; Tabreez Verjee, Jury Judge. Photo: Wren Brennan

Amplifier is a San Francisco-based mission-driven social impact agency that matches selected global change agents with the funding resources they need to scale. Callisto, a project of Sexual Health Innovations, of which Ladd is founder and CEO, was introduced last summer at the University of San Francisco and Pomona College. It is a promising startup built on a foundation of collaborative leadership among colleges, universities and technology companies across America concerned about the security and sexual health and well-being of women. Ladd and her team tapped into a global problem with a solution currently being tested on US college campuses. Her presentation resonated with the judges at the #Tech4Good Challenge, where Callisto won first place in this first-ever global competition.

“We organized #tech4good to be an inspiration for entrepreneurs to harness their creativity and innovation in ways that will tackle key social and environmental issues,” said Amplifier Head of Digital Chantal Buard. “We are seeing what tech can do to make a lasting difference.”
Jessica Ladd (right) shakes hands with Amplifier CEO, Allison Duncan (left) after receiving an award for first place in the #Tech4Good Challenge in Paris, France on July 2, 2016 while a jury judge looks on.

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Mike Green is an award-winning journalist and co-founder of ScaleUp Partners, a nationally networked leading consultancy on Inclusive Competitiveness®. Reach him at mike@scaleuppartners.com. Follow Mike on Twitter: @amikegreen2

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