Photo by Mari Yamagiwa

I can’t tell you how many times in college we were given the advice, “don’t put your drink down.” From mace to color changing nail polish, it is ingrained in the minds of women that you simply have to protect yourself if you don’t want to be sexually assaulted.

There’s a problem with that though. This “boys will be boys” way of thinking makes sexual assault seem similar to the weather—something we have no control over.

With 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted during their college career, I am certain we’re surrendering to a problem that we can change. When we are telling women and girls that they must protect themselves, we are indirectly telling them that it will be their fault if they are sexually assaulted. This results in delayed reporting, victim shaming, inaccuracy in statistics and perpetrators remaining at large. It perpetuates a vicious cycle.

Why is it up to us women to protect ourselves? Shouldn’t colleges be promoting our safety and holding accountable anyone that poses a threat to our well-being?

Focusing on women protecting themselves diverts attention from the reality of the problem: individuals are choosing to rape and sexually assault. Some effective ways to stop the cycle of assault include teaching boys and men not to rape, educating men and women on consent, and holding those who sexually assault accountable for their actions.

Tracey Vitchers, Chief Development Officer of Sexual Health Innovations (SHI), told me that an estimated 90% of sexual assaults are by repeat assailants and that if they were stopped after their second assault, 60% of rapes would be prevented.

Vitchers and the team at SHI are piloting an online reporting system, Callisto, to help colleges and their students put a stop to assault on their campuses. Callisto is changing the game when it comes to addressing sexual assault. It is “designed to provide a more empowering, transparent and confidential reporting experience for college sexual assault survivors, to give schools better data about campus assault, and to facilitate the identification of repeat assailants.”

Callisto allows survivors to confidentially log their experience into a database. The survivor can choose to submit a report to their school if they wish and/or utilize the “matching escrow” which will allow a survivor to make a report only if another individual reported the same assailant. Not only does this tool empower survivors, but it can provide aggregate data to schools that can help them address sexual assault on their campus more effectively.

Sexual assault is pervasive. Instead of allowing rape culture to persist and give assailants power, we should take matters into our own hands and support effective solutions.

 Here’s what you can do right now to help decrease sexual assault on college campuses:

  1. Donate here in order to help get Callisto onto 10 more college campuses by August 2016! Any amount helps.
  2. Are you a student, alumni or school staff? Advocate for Callisto on your campus or suggest a school to Callisto. To check out a demo of Callisto, please visit

Are you a survivor seeking help? I urge you to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673).

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