Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A New System for Sexual Assault Survivors

One in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college in the United States. One in 13 men will be sexually assaulted in college in United States. But less than 10 % of these men and women report the crime and those who do wait an average of 11 months to make the report.

If these statistics scare you, you’re in the same boat that Jessica Ladd was in when she realized that someone had to do something to improve the situation.

Jessica Ladd is the founder and CEO of Sexual Health Innovations and worked in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy. She also founded The Social Innovation Lab. Ladd received her Masters in Public Health at John Hopkins University and her Bachelors Degree at Pomona College. She identifies herself as an infectious disease epidemiologist, so for her to be analyzing data on reports and creating websites was very much out of her department. She wanted to allocate the resources that she had to do the most good, reflecting an intrinsic motivation for her creativity to fight this issue. She wanted to solve the problem of sexual assaults purely because she wanted to stop offenders from getting away and increase the number of victims reporting the crime.  

She soon learned that 90% of sexual assaults are committed by repeat offenders and only about 6% of people arrested for sexual assault spend at least one day in prison.

Ladd talked to people on different college campuses and asked them what would help them in case of sexual assault. She received the answer that they wanted a website with clearly written information and reports could be electronically done. People would rather report electronically than talk to someone who could or could not believe them. This website would also secure a time stamp document and preserve evidence if they don’t want to report the crime at that moment. There would be
a matching system in place so if someone else reported a crime with the same assailant, the website would match the two victims and put them into contact and send the report to the police. This means that if a victim does decide to come forward, they know someone will be there for them that has gone through the same thing.

Ladd and her teammates launched the website on 2 college campuses 3 months ago, and they have seen that people are more likely to report and have perpetrators penalized. It is really important to stop repeat offenders after the 2nd assault because that can prevent 59% of assaults by stopping them earlier on.  

I think that this is a really creative idea because it takes a process, like reporting crimes, that has been the same for as a long as the criminal justice system has existed, and changed it completely to serve the needs of victims of sexual assault. I think that her thinking and those of the college students giving the suggestions is also heavily influenced by the way that society lives today-more focused on technology. In the American Journal of Sociology, Brian Uzzi and Jarrett Spiro talk about “creativity…is the consequence of a social system of actors that amplify…one another’s creativity” (448). In society today, we have such a close relationship with technology and technological tools, such as computers and phones, that it influences the way that we react to situations and interact with people. I think that Ladd does a great job of creatively incorporating the things that society prioritizes to solve the problem that she sees.

"The Reporting System That Sexual Assault Survivors Want." Jessica Ladd:. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
"Our Board." Board. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.


  1. Thanks for sharing an about such an important topic! I agree that it is creative to look at sexual assault reporting from the lens of technology. It sounds like Ladd found a problem - offenders escaping legal prosecution - and then used a new way of thinking to find a solution. She is definitely a 'Big C' creative!

  2. It's amazing that Ladd was able to challenge her personal knowledge and the existing domain to provide a solution to such a prevalent problem on college campuses. She analyzed the complexity behind reporting to come up with a new and creative solution. I would love to see this on Loyola's campus!

  3. I think that the matching feature is a really important step toward helping people in these situations; I remember seeing the (amazing) documentary The Hunting Ground last year when it was showing at Loyola, and one of the things that struck me the most was how the three women who brought the Title IX case to the Supreme Court were able to find comfort and healing as a result of their bond over their shared experiences. So not only would such a feature make it more likely that perpetrators will face punishment for their actions, but it also has the potential to help provide survivors with a network that could facilitate healing from their trauma. It's such a creative way to address an extremely pervasive issue in multiple ways.

  4. Cool post! I dont't think I've read a post about a creative quite this her before. Since coming to Loyola, my eyes have been opened to sexual assualt and how hard it can be to communicate an assault with someone else. Online reporting seems like a great way to help people to report it and prevent further abuse from the same offender. I'm interested in how Ladd looks to expand this event. I think it will be very successful, but I feel like Ladd can take this in a lot of ways to help support survivors. Possibly connecting people and having online chat meetings between people who have reported crime. The confidentiality that web provides is something that could be very useful in supporting survivors.

  5. What an appropriate post for sexual assault awareness month! I recently attended a panel discussion at DePaul about alternative methods for sexual assault healing. There was a BioFeedback specialist, a Reiki healer, a trauma-informed yoga instructor, and a body-inclusive psychotherapist that shared information about how they help clients, and how their healing methods would apply specifically to sexual assault victims. As a psychology student interested in pursuing art therapy, I love hearing about all of the tools that are being developed to help others. It is a known fact that speaking about trauma is difficult, and psychologists even go so far to say that in certain situations, speaking about an event can "retraumatize" the victim by bringing to life memories that have been repressed deep within the confines of our protective minds. Ladd's new online methods fall in the same category as all of the non-verbal therapies that I learned about at the panel discussion. I wish they would have included something about this! Thanks for sharing!


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