New technology will help college students report sexual assault

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A terrifying reality: one in five women is sexually assaulted in college, but according to the Department of Justice, only 20 percent tell police.

The University of Memphis admits it’s a crime that’s under-reported, which is why the university is being considered for a new system where victims can report rape through a website.

At the U of M, a school with 21,000 students, only two students reported sexual assault last year, and the same goes for 2013.

“Very often, they don’t want to tell anybody,” Lisa Winborn said.

We sat down with Winborn and Kim Collins, two U of M counselors who work with sexual assault victims each day.

“There is still a great deal of stigma and shame attached to it, particularly if there is alcohol attached. Women feel like they are responsible,” Winborn said.

“Do you feel like it’s under-reported?” WREG asked.

“Absolutely,” Collins replied.

Now new technology could change that.

“I am a college sexual assault survivor. I went through the reporting process, and found it very difficult and somewhat re-traumatizing, and I took over a year to report,” Jessica Ladd said.

Ladd is from California, and spoke with WREG over Skype.

She was sexually assaulted in college, and said she was too intimidated to tell police.

Ladd doesn’t want anyone to feel that way, so she’s working with a company, Sexual Health Innovations, to develop a website just for college rape victims.

It’s called Callisto, through which victims can log on and answer a list of questions similar to what police ask at a crime scene.

“It would ask them for the same type of information a school would need in order to conduct an investigation,” Ladd said.

From there, victims can save the information or send it to campus or city police.

Details are still in the works, like whether a student can upload photos of evidence or get tips on what evidence to keep and how to store it.

We do know questions will be tailored to each university, and the website will talk about the importance of rape kits and where to get them.

The website is set to launch at the first three schools in August.

Right now, Ladd is determining what colleges need Callisto the most, and said the U of M was recommended.

“It is relatively simple on our campus. I don’t know how it could be simpler,” Winborn said.

Counselors said Callisto wouldn’t hurt, but aren’t convinced it’s the answer, saying their reporting system isn’t flawed. Students can report rape to campus or Memphis Police, and if they want, an officer will come to them.

Counselors think prevention is more effective. They’re holding workshops and talking with campus organizations.

They want students to know not to be afraid to come forward, and how they can look out for one another, too.

Some students disagree, saying an online-reporting system is needed at every campus.

“Yeah, yeah. I think it would help a lot. I think every place would benefit from that,” one student said.

U of M students aren’t the only ones not reporting sexual assault.

There are 272 college campuses in Tennessee, and only 85 students statewide reported rape in 2013, and only 51 in 2012.

The scariest part: if victims continue to stay silent, studies show nine out of ten times, their rapist will assault someone else.

Click here to suggest a school for Callisto.

Click here to find out how many sexual assaults were reported at your school.

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