Assault Victim Turns Innovator, Creates Tool That Can Prevent Rape

The best solution to any problem is offered by one who has learned things the hard way.

Jessica Ladd was a student at Pomona College when she was sexually assaulted by a friend. Needless to say, the experience was traumatic. Jessica, like any assault victim of her age, Jessica feared what might happen to her if she reported the incident to the authorities.

When after a year, she plucked the courage and informed the college about the incident, nobody took her seriously.

“The experience of reporting was almost as traumatic as the assault itself. I felt unprepared … I felt really not believed, and I didn’t have any control over what was going to happen next.,” she told NBC News.

Jessica, however, managed to figure out that there is a problem in every opportunity. The courage that once failed her now serves as a reason to save thousands of potential assault victims. Today, Jessica, an assault victim, has turned into an innovator. She is the founder of Sexual Health Innovations, which is dedicated to creating technology that advances sexual health and wellbeing in the United States. Jessica has created a technology called Callisto that allows students to anonymously record an assault before they are emotionally ready to trigger an investigation.

Callisto is a project of the 501(c)3 non-profit Sexual Health Innovations. According to the website, project Callisto was first presented at the White House Data Jam on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault. Callisto launched on August 2015 at University of San Francisco and Pomona College.

“Reporting [an assault] is never easy, but it doesn’t have to be that hard,” says Jessica.

Today, many colleges are under increased scrutiny for sexual violence.

According to statistics shown by RAINN, sexual violence on campus is pervasive. The report claims that 11.2 percent of students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. Among graduate and professional students, 8.8 percent of females and 2.2 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.

Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. About 4.2 percent of students have experienced stalking since entering college.

“Knowing that you weren’t the only one changes everything. It changes the way you frame your own experience, it changes the way you think about your perpetrator. It means that if you do come forward you’ll have someone else’s back and they’ll have yours,” Jessica told News.

Callisto has been receiving a positive impact ever since the launch.

“The outpouring of support for Callisto has been incredible. In some ways I am (surprised) to see survivors outing themselves to their social networks in order to fundraise, or in order to ask their schools to adopt the system. That has been incredible and so validating and meaningful,” said Jessica.

A 25-year-old survivor on condition of anonymity said that Callisto would have made her life easier.

“The problems with reporting were too many for me (especially since it was an acquaintance). Social pressure, shame, fear, confusion on what legal action would mean or if I would succeed—all of those things stopped me and I still wonder what I actions I could or ‘should’ have taken,” the survivor said on Project Callisto website.

The objective of Callisto is to make empower victims and help create a system that will prevent untoward incidents in the future.

“Low reporting and poor response when survivors do report means that there is not much of a deterrent to assault. If we can transform the reporting process into something that is actually empowering to an individual and gives them a decent chance of justice, then we’re not just helping survivors — we’re helping create a system where this is less likely to happen again,” Jessica told News.

[Photo by Fotolia/AP Images]