Designing trauma-informed and inclusive technology for survivors of sexual assault

Stef Angeles, Callisto’s Product Designer, has been overseeing a redesign of the organization’s online sexual assault reporting and documentation system for students, known as Callisto Campus. The organization’s system provides survivors with three options: 1) to create an encrypted record that preserves the details of happened to them, 2) to report electronically to their universities or 3) to only alert schools of their perpetrator if someone else names the same perpetrator.

Stef Angeles, Product Designer at Callisto

Stef had an interview with Digital Culture 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles discussing how she integrated a trauma-informed and inclusive approach to redesigning a tool for survivors of sexual assault.

An excerpt of her interview has been provided below.

Looking at this product and thinking holistically for this redesign, I wanted to make sure that we use a trauma-informed approach.

When we say trauma informed, we mean grounding the user experience in four key principles: safety; trust and transparency; empowerment, voice and change; and cultural and gender issues.

The way we implement all of these principles in this redesign was to first, understand the neurobiology of sexual assault and what that does to a survivor when they they are recalling and recounting their experience. We consulted with John Hopper, an expert in neurobiology, and Jennifer Freyd, an expert in institutional betrayal, and they helped us to craft this record form. I also attended FETI training (Forensic Experiential Trauma Interviewing) to help us map out this record form.

The way we engender trust in our design, going back to those key principles, is to enact progressive disclosure, which means giving the user the right amount of information when they need it, so it’s not overwhelming for them. It acts like a hand holding throughout the entire product.

We also integrated informed consent, which means, “If you go down this path, these are the likely outcomes from that course of action.” Our product aims to be transparent and empathetic as possible, which sometimes conflict, but we try to make sure we give the user enough information to make sure they are comfortable with the process but also informing them of the outcomes, both positive and negative.

Another thing we focused on in this redesign is accessibility and inclusion. These are major components of our redesign. 24% of LGBTQ students experience sexual violence and individuals who identify as disabled are three times more likely to experience sexual violence.

We prioritize these marginalized groups because they are vastly underrepresented in this narrative in many ways.

The way we consider these communities in our redesign is to make sure we don’t use any gender-specific pronouns in our product. Survivors can type in their gender, as opposed to binary selectors. We simplify and streamline the copy to reduce cognitive load. We have our contrast ratio as 4:1 for survivors with low vision. We use muted colors for reduced stimulation.

We’re really extremely proud of the work we have done on this redesign. It should be coming out in December.

So far, from our impact study, we are seeing that our current product is serving students very well, and we want to continue building a tool that supports survivors into the future.

We want to be as inclusive as possible, making sure that we acknowledge that survivors come in every shape and form, and that they are all represented.

Listen to the full interview.