Digitally decoding sexual assault



The topic of sexual consent has been splashed across my news feed and Twitter timeline lately.

The University of Winnipeg adopted a new sexual misconduct policy that includes sexual assault education and a 24-hour helpline. Almost 2,000 students attended mandatory workshops during the first few weeks of school.

Lady Gaga addressed sexual assaults on college campuses in a new music video for her song ‘Til It Happens To You.” The black and white video starts with a warning for extremely graphic content before showing the scary reality of campus rapes.

Nearly one in four women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, according to Statistics Canada We get a more alarming picture, however, when we look at reporting sexual assault. In February, a poll commissioned by Global News revealed 30 per cent of those surveyed had experienced sexual assault, but only about 18 per cent of them reported it.

It’s about time we talk more openly about sexual consent. Heck, we should be shouting it from the rooftops.

The low number of reported sexual assault cases is likely due, at least partially, to our society’s tendency to victim-blame. Because of the uncertainty and public scrutiny that victims often face when reporting a suspect, apps are cropping up to help give sexual assault victims a safer way to report crimes.

One of these apps is called Callisto. Although the American college sexual assault reporting system is not yet fully developed, the website is looking for fundraising to make the program a reality.

Callisto lets users write down an incident if they’ve been sexually assaulted by asking when, where, what and who. The report does not have to be shared with anyone, but it is time-stamped and password-protected if the user does decide to report the incident. A user can then choose to report the crime to the police or the college.

A unique feature that Callisto provides is a matching tool that allows victims to identify repeat offenders. Victims can enter the Facebook URL of the perpetrator and the app will alert them if someone else has also entered that name. If there’s a match, the person’s name and info will be sent to the college.

Although the app is designed to work in conjunction with American colleges now, the idea behind it is a stepping-stone for changing the future of sexual assault cases.

Above all, the conversation around sexual consent is one that needs to continue to be heard, and heard often.

Riley Chervinski is a journalism student, soccer player

and reader of cringe-worthy chick-lit. You can usually find her scrolling

through Tumblr, scoping out recipe blogs or laughing

at her own jokes @rileychervinski.