Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Mechanism to Fight Sexual Assaults

The Callisto sexual assault reporting system is clever use of game theory. Two features of sexual assault reporting is that: 1) they are widely believed to be under-reported because victims fear being caught in a "he-said-she said" case that goes nowhere; 2) but when one victim comes forward, sometimes there are more victims who could come forward too. As Ian Ayres explains in the WaPo, Callisto encourages the latter without exposing victims to the former. It does this by allowing a victim to file contemporaneous accounts into escrow. These accounts will only be unsealed if the accused party is named by another victim. This means that, if accounts in escrow are ever unsealed, the case becomes a "he said; they said," which is often more successful in court.

Hat tip: Joel Waldfogel


  1. I found this particular blog piece fascinating for several reasons- first, sexual assault is a delicate subject and kudos to Mr. Froeb for addressing it tactfully. Second- Game Theory is simply an interesting topic. Lastly-it is interesting to me that economists can apply economic theories to anything!
    According to the website, Author David K Levine states “What economists call game theory psychologists call the theory of social situations…” Personally I love that economics and psychology overlap. Thinking further I came to the realization that economists very much need to understand psychology. In order to predict economic outcomes, one variable is always going to be human reaction to a given situation.
    In the case of the Callisto Sexual Assault Reporting system, it sounds like it is a great tool that was implemented based on learned psychology-based information that a given person is more comfortable being part of a group than standing out on their own. The same can be said within a given economy. For example, stock purchasers may react to what other purchases are already doing or what the current trend is.
    In summation, in reading this blog and researching the given information, I was able to gain personal insight into how economics and psychology can work together to predict outcomes.

    1. I completely agree. When I first started reading this article, I wondered how this related to economics. Then, as I continued on and began researching the topics, like Game Theory, I realized that the topics of psychology and economics are actually very much related. When studying economics, a large part of it revolves around the study of how people make economic decisions. Psychology is the study of behavior. I don't know why I never looked at it this way before, but I'm so glad I have stumbled upon this realization. I feel that this will make further study that more more interesting!

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  2. It's interesting that a larger correlation has not been flagged between economics and psychology, when both subjects are the study of behavior – economics, the behavior of the market which is fueled by human interaction, and psychology, which in itself is the study of human behavior. It only makes sense that these two fields overlap, as human decisions are at the base of each. Game theory takes human decisions a step further as it can be manipulating, forcing opponents into making decisions. In the case of the Callisto system, this manipulation is not necessarily bad. Manipulating victims to feel as if they are not alone. As if they can have support, as the case is now he said they said. A much better stance for victims.


  3. I have actually never heard of the Castillo system for reporting sexual assaults. And now reading up on it, I think it’s a great outlet for promoting awareness, and emphasizing the importance of reporter offenders. Too many incidences especially on campuses go unreported and these offenders end up growing to commit even greater crimes. It makes me wonder, why not report? What are people fearing that they don’t want to report something? Is it fear or just the feeling of the act being insignificant? Such an anonymous way of reporting offenders is great because the victim won’t be pinpointed by the offender if such person gets caught. On the Castillo website it says it’s a “college sexual assault reporting system,” and I wonder what the endeavors would be like to make this city/state-wide program, where people outside the college network to be able to input their reports.

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  5. Fascinating approach, however, I am not sure if I am convinced. This design plays off the existing flaws of the system where basically victims still are ashamed to point fingers. Hence, we need to change the system itself, not the tools that measure sexual assault. Both our culture and the justice system’s steadfast ‘innocent until proven guilty’ beliefs actually benefits the accused rather than the victims themselves. This novel approach will only continue to support that culture of protecting the accused before the victim.

    I have been involved in the anti-violence cause myself, having served as a board president for a local agency. Our forward-thinking philosophy promotes the need for increasing community accountability where we shift the “shame” from the victims to the accused. We need to be more accepting of such individuals that put themselves in unfortunate situations. Why is it that the accused are often placed on a pedestal and victims are pushed aside until incriminating evidence is produced, when in fact it most likely never will be? We need to be more upfront and put our support behind victims.

    I do still agree that everyone has to have their day in court and follow due process – I have no problem with that. I am just saying that Respect and Belief for our victims need to come first and then have the accused worry about protecting themselves in court only.

    In staying true to game theory, we need to change the rules where the dominant strategy for the victim is always to speak up and get justice done properly. That is the ultimate payoff we need to be striving for.