Sexual assault at colleges, notwithstanding a minority of false claims, remains a pervasive problem today, and under-reporting by victims, a major hurdle in tackling it. According to a US Department of Justice report published in 2014, only 20% of sexual assaults are disclosed to campus authorities or law enforcement. Furthermore, disclosure of sexual assaults by colleges to federal authorities, as required by law, is under-reported, presenting a two-pronged challenge to improving safety on campus.
A study published in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law in February, 2015 found that sexual assaults are under-reported to authorities by a number of universities, including those previously fined for violating federal crime reporting requirements. The study analyzed the number of sexual assault cases reported by 31 schools before, during and after federal crime reporting compliance audits by the Department of Education. Not coincidentally, the number of assault cases reporting during the audit, while the colleges were being monitored, actually spiked by 44%, supporting the position that underreporting is prevalent.
It has been suggested by some researchers that under-reporting to federal authorities is, in part, an attempt to downplay the safety risks on some campuses in order to avoid the negative publicity and reputation damage that follows such disclosure. This, coupled with the victim’s reluctance to report assaults due to fear of retaliation, and further victimization by an ‘investigation process’ that is intrusive and intimidating, grossly reduces reporting.
The consequence of all this dysfunction in reporting suggests the need for a responsive and impartial system that will facilitate reports and provide for a fair investigation, when or if one is requested by the victim.
Callisto, a non-profit that builds technology solutions to advance sexual health and well-being offers a third-party sexual assault reporting system, as does, sci-Shot, LLC. Both technology solutions accept reports, date and time stamped, but give victims the much needed time to reflect on their trauma, and process their experience before submitting to campus authorities or police. Both systems also help with recordkeeping and the identification of repeat offenders. Callisto’s incident report system is offered online while sci-Shot offers an online solution as well as a mobile App.
Both reporting systems offer a promising alternative, with each company on the cutting edge of empowering college sexual assault survivors to report their assaults, making campuses the kind of communities where students can live safely and grow comfortably.