When results from the Association of American Universities campus survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct were released last fall, Yale was confronted with data that showed an alarming rate of sexual misconduct on campus. Two particularly disturbing statistics indicated that only 7.1 percent of female undergraduates and 3.5 percent of male undergraduates who experienced sexual harassment reported the incident to a University program.
To address these gaps in reporting sexual misconduct and other forms of discrimination and harassment, the University is considering the launch of an anonymous reporting website or app.
“The AAU survey results underscored the fact that many incidents of sexual misconduct do not get reported to a University program,” University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler told the News. “There are many reasons for this reporting gap and there will likely need to be a variety of approaches to address it.”
Spangler said administrators have received suggestions from across the Yale community to offer an anonymous reporting site or app, adding that her office, Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews and Title IX student advisory boards have been developing a list of potential features for such an app or website while also reviewing and sampling those already in existence. To identify, implement and maintain clear options for reporting sexual misconduct is among her office’s highest priorities, Spangler added.
Goff-Crews told the News that as part of the University’s diversity and inclusion efforts, administrators are “exploring a number of possibilities” for reporting incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, veteran status, sexual orientation and other protected categories.
Melanie Boyd, assistant dean of student affairs and director of the office of gender and campus climate, said her office has worked to foster a “culture of reporting” by building a community with peer support and focusing on in-person connections. Nevertheless, Boyd said she has heard from students that they are also interested in online reporting options. As a result, she and her colleagues are working with outside vendors to develop a system that will both protect students’ anonymity and facilitate contact with the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center or other response staff.
According to Helen Price ’18, co-founder and co-director of Unite Against Sexual Assault at Yale, several of USAY’s board members have been consulted on the software proposals as members on student advisory boards or have been asked to test existing apps. USAY as an organization, however, has not been approached, which Price called “disappointing.” USAY has been advocating for the introduction of an online reporting software since the organization was founded last fall, Price said.
While Yale administrators did not name specific apps or companies they are working with, there are a number of outside apps that Yale students can register with independently. Though they come from outside the University, these apps can be used to file complaints with University Title IX officials.
One such outside vendor is Callisto, a third-party reporting website, according to Yale College Council representative and USAY board member Sofia Braunstein ’18. Braunstein, also a staff reporter for the News, learned of Callisto after creating her own online platform for reporting sexual harassment or violence as a class project in the fall of 2015.
“Oftentimes, after you’ve been assaulted, it’s really hard to talk to people about it and work through your own situation,” Braunstein said. “The way Callisto works, you’d write out your situation … you’d basically have time-stamped proof for when something happened to you.”
Callisto allows for direct reporting to Title IX coordinators at a university online and establishes a repeat offenders database; however, none of the information it contains can be subpoenaed — which Braunstein called a limitation.
Another outside vendor is Lighthouse, a new app created by the company Vertiglo. Lighthouse is similar to Callisto in that it allows students to make accounts, create reports and submit them. Unlike Callisto, Lighthouse has a data aggregating element intended to provide real-time data to campuses — which can be a preventative measure at some universities, according to Vertiglo CEO Luke Roopra.
“Wouldn’t you like to predict when an assault occurs?” Roopra said. “It’s amazing how many campuses don’t know that 92 percent of assaults occur in dorms rooms from 1 to 3 a.m., or after a football game … You could search the data for your campus and do that internally, and that’s the power of the app.”
Lighthouse, Roopra argues, allows students to directly and anonymously communicate with stakeholders, such as campus police and law enforcement, circumventing reporting processes mandated by Title IX and federal Department of Education regulations.
With just under one million students nationwide already signed up, Roopra predicted two-thirds of current Yale students will have Lighthouse accounts within six months. As of April 20, Lighthouse statistics indicate there are 2,940 accounts registered to individuals affiliated with Yale: 1,516 alumni, 193 graduate students and 1,231 undergraduates. Spangler told the News that the Title IX office has not received any reports filed through Lighthouse. Students who have already used Lighthouse to file reports should contact her or SHARE directly, she added.
According to the Lighthouse website, students can submit assault reports through Lighthouse to 24 campuses across the country, with Princeton being the only other Ivy League school in addition to Yale. Still, Daniel Day, assistant vice president for communications at Princeton, told the News on Wednesday that Princeton is still evaluating the Lighthouse app and did not have any further comment.
The AAU survey polled nearly 800,000 students at 27 universities across the country, including every Ivy League university except Princeton.
Clarification, April 22: A previous version of this article may have misled readers into thinking that reports filed through Lighthouse will reach the University Title IX office. In fact, University Title IX Coordinator Stephanie Spangler confirmed with the News that her office has not received any reports from the app. Students who have submitted a report through Lighthouse should contact her or SHARE directly, Spangler said.