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Students sit on Libe Slope on Oct. 12.

November 30, 2022

Nonprofit Callisto to Help Combat Sexual Violence at New Student-Run Cornell Chapter

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Callisto, a nonprofit organization with the goal of empowering students who have experienced sexual violence, is expected to arrive to Cornell’s campus on Jan. 23. 

This organization offers a twofold plan to aid student survivors. Students entering the platform are first met with an encrypted record form — a document that helps to reduce trauma by utilizing information gathered from the Foresnic Experiental Trauma Interview, while also recording the incident of sexual violence. 

Students using Callisto are then placed within a matching system, which asks survivors to input characteristic data about the perpetrator. If two victims identify the same perpetrator, they are connected to a third-party attorney, also known as the “Legal Operations Counselor.” The attorney is able to provide assistance on possible next steps for the victim, including aiding the victim in pursuing legal charges or suggesting involvement with the press.

At the forefront of the Callisto mission statement is the fact that 90 percent of college sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders, according to a study from the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. With this in mind, the Callisto team at Cornell hopes the organization will not only increase accountability surrounding sexual violence, but also empower survivors by providing a platform in which they may be connected with other victims of the same perpetrator. 

Currently, Callistso is present on forty campuses nationwide, including Stanford University and the University of Southern California. Jessica Harris ’25 is the head of the organization’s branch at Cornell. Harris and eight other members have worked closely with Sexual Assault Prevention and Safety Group to bring Callisto to Cornell.  

According to Harris, SAPS is a committee heavily focused on issues related to the Greek Life system. While Harris makes clear that sexual assault is not merely an issue within fraternities and sororities, she does hope to use the Greek system “as an education tool.” Specifically, alongside the launch of Callisto, she hopes to educate fraternities on issues of consent. 

The launch of Callisto is timely amid the current ban on fraternity sponsored events at Cornell. Avery Carter ’25, a member of the Callisto team at Cornell, stated that even as there may be no way to completely eliminate the issue of sexual violence on college campuses, Callisto is a means to help students by providing the platform to raise awareness surrounding this pertinent issue.

Callisto’s mission to provide services to Cornell’s campus is proceeding without administrative aid. According to Harris, Callisto advocates at other schools have run into pushback from university administration on sexual violence aid initiatives such as this platform. Harris made the final choice to launch Callisto without the help of the administration, hoping that this platform would be “for students, run by students.”

An entirely student-run platform may also increase reports of incidents of sexual violence, according to Carter. Carter said that while many survivors may feel uncomfortable speaking to administration about their experiences, they are much more likely to “turn to a friend, or turn to someone who they have something in common with.” In this way, Callisto anticipates to spread accountability on Cornell’s campus. 

Nearing the launch, Callisto is holding meetings with other clubs in hopes of promoting the platform to students around campus. The launch stresses the difficulty of reporting sexual violence through Title IX. In light of this difficulty, Callisto hopes to become a service that not only aids victims, but also empowers them in the process.