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TED2016

Jessica Ladd: The reporting system that sexual assault survivors want

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Views 1,249,236

We don't have to live in a world where 99 percent of rapists get away with it, says TED Fellow Jessica Ladd. With Callisto, a new platform for college students to confidentially report sexual assault, Ladd is helping survivors get the support and justice they deserve while respecting their privacy concerns. "We can create a world where there's a real deterrent to violating the rights of another human being," she says.

- Founder and CEO, Sexual Health Innovations
Jessica Ladd is using technology to advance sexual health in the US. Full bio

Hannah is excited to be going to college.
00:13
She couldn't wait
to get out of her parents' house,
00:16
to prove to them that she's an adult,
00:19
and to prove to her new friends
that she belongs.
00:21
She heads to a campus party
00:25
where she sees a guy
that she has a crush on.
00:26
Let's call him Mike.
00:29
The next day, Hannah wakes up
with a pounding headache.
00:32
She can only remember
the night in flashes.
00:37
But what she does remember is
00:40
throwing up in the hall
outside Mike's room
00:42
and staring at the wall silently
while he was inside her,
00:46
wanting it to stop,
00:49
then shakily stumbling home.
00:51
She doesn't feel good about what happened,
00:54
but she thinks, "Maybe this is just
what sex in college is?"
00:56
One in five women and one in 13 men
will be sexually assaulted
01:01
at some point during their college career
in the United States.
01:06
Less than 10 percent will ever report
their assault to their school
01:11
or to the police.
01:15
And those who do, on average,
wait 11 months to make the report.
01:17
Hannah initially just feels like dealing
with what happened on her own.
01:24
But when she sees Mike
taking girls home from parties,
01:27
she's worried about them.
01:30
After graduation, Hannah learns
01:32
that she was one of five women
who Mike did the exact same thing to.
01:34
And this is not an unlikely scenario
01:40
because 90 percent of sexual assaults
01:43
are committed by repeat offenders.
01:46
But with such low reporting rates,
01:49
it's fairly unlikely that even
repeat perpetrators will be reported,
01:50
much less anything happen if they are.
01:54
In fact, only six percent
of assaults reported to the police
01:57
end with the assailant
spending a single day in prison.
02:02
Meaning, there's a 99 percent chance
that they'll get away with it.
02:05
This means there's practically
no deterrent to assault
02:11
in the United States.
02:14
Now, I'm an infectious disease
epidemiologist by training.
02:18
I'm interested in systems and networks
02:21
and where we can concentrate
our resources to do the most good.
02:24
So this, to me, is a tragic
but a solvable problem.
02:29
So when the issue of campus assault
started hitting the news a few years ago,
02:35
it felt like a unique opportunity
to make a change.
02:39
And so we did.
02:42
We started by talking
to college survivors.
02:44
And what they wish they'd had
in college is pretty simple;
02:47
they wanted a website,
02:50
one they could use
at the time and place
02:52
that felt safest to them
02:54
with clearly written information
about their reporting options,
02:56
with the ability to electronically
report their assault,
03:00
rather than having the first step
03:03
to go in and talk to someone
who may or may not believe them.
03:05
With the option to create
a secure, timestamped document
03:09
of what happened to them,
03:12
preserving evidence
even if they don't want to report yet.
03:13
And lastly, and perhaps most critically,
03:17
with the ability to report their assault
03:20
only if someone else
reported the same assailant.
03:22
You see, knowing that you weren't
the only one changes everything.
03:26
It changes the way
you frame your own experience,
03:30
it changes the way
you think about your perpetrator,
03:32
it means that if you do come forward,
03:34
you'll have someone else's back
and they'll have yours.
03:36
We created a website
that actually does this
03:40
and we launched it [...] in August,
03:43
on two college campuses.
03:46
And we included a unique matching system
03:48
where if Mike's first victim
had come forward,
03:51
saved her record,
entered into the matching system
03:54
and named Mike,
03:57
and Mike's second victim
had done the same thing
03:58
a few months later,
04:00
they would have matched
04:02
and the verified contact information
of both survivors
04:04
would have been sent
to the authorities at the same time
04:07
for investigation and follow up.
04:10
If a system like this had existed
for Hannah and her peers,
04:13
it's more likely
that they would have reported,
04:17
that they would have been believed,
04:19
and that Mike would have been
kicked off campus,
04:21
gone to jail, or at least
gotten the help that he needed.
04:23
And if we were able to stop
repeat offenders like Mike
04:27
after just their second assault
following a match,
04:31
survivors like Hannah
would never even be assaulted
04:35
in the first place.
04:37
We could prevent
59 percent of sexual assaults
04:39
just by stopping
repeat perpetrators earlier on.
04:43
And because we're creating
a real deterrent to assault,
04:48
for perhaps the first time,
04:50
maybe the Mikes of the world
would never even try to assault anyone.
04:52
The type of system I'm describing,
04:58
the type of system that survivors want
05:00
is a type of information escrow,
05:03
meaning an entity that holds on
to information for you
05:05
and only releases it to a third party
05:08
when certain pre-agreed upon
conditions are met,
05:11
such as a match.
05:13
The application that we built
is for college campuses.
05:15
But the same type of system
could be used in the military
05:19
or even the workplace.
05:22
We don't have to live in a world
05:25
where 99 percent of rapists
get away with it.
05:28
We can create one
05:32
where those who do wrong
are held accountable,
05:33
where survivors get the support
and justice they deserve,
05:36
where the authorities
get the information they need,
05:39
and where there's a real deterrent
05:42
to violating the rights
of another human being.
05:44
Thank you.
05:49
(Applause)
05:50

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About the speaker:

Jessica Ladd - Founder and CEO, Sexual Health Innovations
Jessica Ladd is using technology to advance sexual health in the US.

Why you should listen

Jessica Ladd is the Founder and CEO of Sexual Health Innovations and a TED Fellow. She has been honored as a Fearless Changemaker by the Case Foundation, an Emerging Innovator by Ashoka and American Express, and as the Civic Hacker of the Year by Baltimore Innovation Week. 

Before founding Sexual Health Innovations, Ladd worked in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, as a Public Policy Associate at The AIDS Institute and as a sexual health educator and researcher for a variety of organizations. She also founded The Social Innovation Lab in Baltimore and a chapter of FemSex at Pomona College. She received her Masters in Public Health at Johns Hopkins and her BA in Public Policy/Human Sexuality at Pomona College. She left a PhD program in infectious disease epidemiology at Johns Hopkins in order to pursue work at Sexual Health Innovations full-time.

Ladd has created a platform, Callisto, for students to report assaults online without having to identify their assailant -- a type of information escrow that only releases information to a third party if certain pre-agreed conditions are met, such as if someone else reports the same attacker.

More profile about the speaker
Jessica Ladd | Speaker | TED.com