Project Callisto: By Survivors, For Survivors

August 3, 2015 | Tech Nonprofits

Project Callisto: By Survivors, For Survivors

This is the second post in a weekly series covering each of Fast Forward’s nine tech nonprofits.

Jessica Ladd, Kate Lazarov, and Kelsey Gilmore-Innis join Fast Forward from Project Callisto, a college sexual assault reporting system and part of Sexual Health Innovations. Callisto empowers sexual assault victims by giving them the tools to safely and anonymously record their assault, and the option to report the assault now or later, with an end goal of reducing sexual assault on college campuses.

Sexual assault is a highly sensitive issue. Why did you decide on a tech solution?

Jessica: Tech is where I turned whenever I had a question about sexual health, including when I was trying to figure out what to do after I was assaulted in college. Like many founders, I’m building for something I know and I’m building the solution that I wish had existed for me.

Why did you decide to adopt a nonprofit business model?

Kate: First and foremost, trust. We just don’t think we’d be able to gain user or customer trust if we were making a profit.

What’s been the biggest challenge in building Callisto?

Jessica: Interestingly the biggest challenges haven’t been on the tech side. Like a lot of nonprofits, we are focused on providing benefits to the user, usually a sexual assault survivor, while also balancing the needs of our customer, usually a university.

What’s the biggest challenge from a product standpoint?

Kelsey: This is my dream job as a developer. There are so many challenges to think through. Tech people love a big, juicy issue to sink their teeth into.

The biggest challenge has been privacy and navigating elements that are in conflict with one another. For example, anonymizing the process while also allowing the system to identify when two assaults have been reported with the same perpetrator.

Jessica: For sexual assault survivors, the reporting process needs to be something they feel in control of if it’s going to be empowering. That means that we sometimes need to disrupt flow and introduce more choice by building friction into the application. That is nearly unheard of in the tech world, but it’s essential to our mission.

Photo credit: Pacific Standard Magazine