Results of a Conceptual Acceptability Survey from November 2013
Background & Overview
In November 2013, we were still deciding whether or not to create Callisto, our sexual assault reporting system. We thought it was a brilliant idea, but then we would, because it was our idea. Before we started seriously fundraising, looking for customers, or spending significant time on the concept, we wanted to check: do survivors even want Callisto?
So we conducted something called a “conceptual acceptability survey” – meaning a survey to assess whether or not your target population even likes an idea. We also wanted to measure “retrospective likelihood of use” – meaning how likely people think they would have been to use the system, had it existed when they needed it.
Here’s the overview: We recruited 162 18-30 year olds through a Facebook event invite. A third had been assaulted while in college or grad school and 72% had never reported. The vast majority of survivors (98%) thought Callisto was a good or great idea. 44% of survivors thought they would have “definitely” or “probably” used Callisto if it had existed, and 40% would have maybe used it.
In November 2013, we recruited a convenience sample of young adults to take an online survey via a Facebook event invite. We invited friends. Friends invited their friends or sent the survey link out. You could call it snowball sampling but it was less deliberate than that.
At the time, Callisto wasn’t even called Callisto yet – it was SHARP for the “sexual harassment and assault reporting project.” Because who doesn’t like acronyms?
Here’s what the Facebook event looked like:
And here’s the first page of the survey:
We asked a mix of multiple choice and free-response questions. We asked for consent to use quotes from the free-response answers. You can see some of those quotes on the Project Callisto website. Here’s how we asked whether we could quote people:
Demographics of participants (n=162)
We had 162 young adults, ages 18-30, take the survey. Most (68%) were cisgender women. We think most were from the U.S. but we didn’t ask. The median age was 27 and the mean age was 26.
“Other” in the above pie chart includes transgender, gender transgressive, genderqueer, and other genders.
History of participants
A quarter (26%) of participants had been sexually assaulted while in college or grad school, and 8% were not sure whether they had been sexually assaulted. We did not define sexual assault for participants. More women than men had been sexually assaulted.
Most (72%) people who had been assaulted/possibly assaulted hadn’t reported. Those who said they had been assaulted were more likely to have reported than those who weren’t sure whether they had been assaulted or not (which makes sense).
Most people (75%) had a friend who had been sexually assaulted or harassed while in college or graduate school.
And now to the meat of it all: did people like our idea? Answer: yes.
Women liked the idea more than men, survivors of sexual assault liked it more than people who hadn’t been assaulted, and people who had friends who had been assaulted or harassed liked it more than those who didn’t.
When we asked for more thoughts on the idea, we got some great responses:
“It should include information on how to contact a counselor or therapist. Additionally, if there are other people serving as advocates for victims it could include their information as well. Contacting the police is a daunting task, but having someone by your side through the process would be comforting.” – Female, 29
“Any reporting system that creates an objective record that can’t be disregarded by the school seems like an amazing idea.” – Male, 27
“This needs to be open to all college community members – staff, professors, etc. to file complaints. This is amazing!” – Female, 20
“This seems particularly important for identifying repeat-offender perpetrators, whose victims otherwise might think they were the only ones. Generally, this seems like a hugely important way to increase agency for assaulted students.” – Female, 26
Retrospective likelihood of use
Do survivors think they would have used Callisto to report or save a record if it had been an option? Yes and maybe. Those who had reported their assault would have been more likely to use Callisto (a lot of “yes”s) than those who had never reported (a lot of “maybe”s).
We asked this question to both people who answered “yes” or “not sure” to the question about whether they had been assaulted in college/grad school. Those who had answered “yes” were more likely to say they would have used Callisto than those who weren’t sure whether they were assaulted.
When we asked why people think they wouldn’t have used Callisto, the main reasons were:
- They felt confused about whether what happened to them was really assault
“In my case I feel it’s debatable whether it was assault or not so I might not put it in the system. If I felt like I was definitely assaulted I probably would use this proposed system” – Female, 26
- They felt confused or intimidated by the reporting system at their school
“It seems a bit complicated at this point in time. and I already had a problem with the complicated reporting system at my university” – Female, 22
- They felt ashamed
“There was a lot of shame around what happened.” – Female, 28
- Drugs or alcohol were involved
“Each time I was harassed/assaulted, I was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both, and while they may have impaired my ability to keep myself safe, I don’t deserve what happened to me. That said, many college administrators/police officers/lawyers don’t agree.” –Female, 21
The main reason survivors would have used Callisto was because:
- It would have been helpful just to write it all down as a first step or as a therapeutic tool
“It was hard to imagine coming forward in an immediately public way, but to start by chronicling what had occurred would have been a helpful and important first step.” – Male, 29
- The ability to know about repeat offenders
“The ability to create a record, to have control over whether or not the info is disseminated while at the same time contributing to a database that will be attuned to repeat offenders — this is extremely desirable.” – Female, 24
- It is not as intimidating as other forms of reporting
“because it is not as scary as filing a police report. i was not 100% sure that what happened to me was a crime at the time, so that seemed intimidating and possibly ‘excessive.’ But I would have like to file something, to see if he had done this before and just to validate my experience” – Female, 25
Of note, we did not ask about likelihood of use of the matching escrow feature in Callisto – the ability for survivors to report only if someone else reports the same assailant.
These results gave us faith that a lot of people, especially survivors, thought Callisto was a good idea. Not every survivor would use it, and the feedback we got helped us to identify what the major barriers to adoption might be (shame, difficulty with labeling what happened, lack of transparency in reporting procedures, use of drugs of alcohol). We have been working to address these barriers in the design and marketing of Callisto (more on that in a later post).
In December 2013, we started conducting focus groups with college survivors. In January 2014, we started meeting with schools about the concept. In October 2014, we launched our first crowdfunding campaign for Callisto. In August 2015, we launched on two pilot campuses (USF and Pomona College). Throughout all this, we continued to engage survivors through focus groups and one-on-one interviews. This survey is where our research into Callisto started and that research continues today.
Special thanks to Natalie Price for her assistance in preparing this post.