UW-Madison uses new survey data to enhance efforts against sexual assault

September 21, 2015 By Käri Knutson

Photo: Sarah Van Orman, Lori Berquam and Rebecca Blank

Sarah Van Orman, M.D., executive director of University Health Services, speaks during a press conference at Bascom Hall about the results of a campus survey on sexual assault and misconduct. Seated are Dean of Students Lori Berquam, left, and Chancellor Rebecca M. Blank.

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Officials at the University of Wisconsin–Madison shared the results today of a campus survey that is being used to enhance ongoing efforts toward preventing and responding to sexual assault and misconduct.

“Sexual assault concerns me deeply, not just as the leader of this university, but as the mother of a college sophomore,” says Chancellor Rebecca M. Blank. “I want to state unambiguously that every student has the right to be safe. Sexual violence and misconduct are unacceptable.”

More than 22 percent of UW–Madison students participated via email in the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, which was conducted by the Association of American Universities earlier this spring. Fewer than half of AAU’s members chose to take part — UW–Madison is one of 26 that did. Information on the national results is available at http://www.aau.edu.

Photo: student Valyncia Raphael

“The results of the study are a call to students to become more engaged in conversations about sexual assault,” said student and task force member Valyncia Raphael.

The survey confirms that sexual violence is a serious problem at UW–Madison and on campuses nationwide, affecting students of all genders and sexual orientations, according to Sarah Van Orman, M.D., chair of a task force managing the survey and executive director of University Health Services.

“Sexual assault affects the health and well being of our entire community,” Van Orman says.

Among the findings specific to UW–Madison:

  • Undergraduate women are the most likely to report having been victimized. At UW–Madison, 27.6 percent of female undergraduates reported experiencing sexual assault, which includes penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation. Perpetrators were overwhelmingly identified as male and a fellow student, often a friend or acquaintance.
  • Alcohol is a common factor in sexual assault. At UW–Madison, 76.1 percent of women who reported penetration by force said that the offender had been drinking alcohol.
  • Sexual assault and misconduct often go unreported to campus officials but victims often confide in fellow students.

“Sexual assault affects the health and well being of our entire community.”

Sarah Van Orman

  • UW-Madison undergraduates report greater knowledge about sexual assault and awareness of campus resources than the national average.

Over the last several years, UW–Madison added a number of programs and resources for preventing sexual violence, supporting survivors and ensuring fair investigations. These include:

  • “Tonight,” a prevention program about sexual assault, consent, dating violence and stalking that has been required for all new undergraduate students since the fall of 2014.
  • A dedicated Title IX coordinator, creating an Office of Compliance, as well as the addition of special investigators to assist with Title IX investigations.
  • A staff position to provide confidential victim advocacy for survivors.

Photo: Sue Riseling

“It’s very important for us that more victims come forward and tell us what happened to them,” said UW Police Chief Sue Riseling.

A campus task force has issued a number of recommendations to further enhance these efforts. Those include adding a “second dose” of Tonight later in the fall semester, incorporating bystander intervention training into prevention programs and increasing the availability of confidential victim advocacy services.

“The results of the study are a call to students to become more engaged in conversations about sexual assault — how to prevent it, how to report suspicious behavior and how to confront and change rape culture,” says task force member and UW–Madison student Valyncia Raphael.

Dean of Students Lori Berquam spoke about the resources available on campus and the need for the entire community to become involved.

“In our prevention efforts, we all have a responsibility to be part of the solution,” Berquam says. “UW-Madison will continue the ‘It’s on Us’ campaign that was championed by the White House earlier this year.”

“Sexual assault concerns me deeply, not just as the leader of this university, but as the mother of a college sophomore.”

Rebecca Blank

The survey confirmed that very few victims report assaults to the police, says UW–Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling.

“I understand and appreciate very much the courage that it takes and what a difficult step it is for a survivor to come forward and report to the police,” Riseling says. “It’s very important for us that more victims come forward and tell us what happened to them.”

These detailed campus data combined with follow-up discussions among specific segments of the campus community will provide an opportunity to engage students, faculty, staff and campus governance groups, Van Orman says.

“In our prevention efforts, we all have a responsibility to be part of the solution.”

Lori Berquam

“Gathering information and sharing what we’ve learned helps us bring our entire campus community into this conversation,” Blank agrees. “I and other university leaders can talk about the problems of sexual assault, but at the end of the day, we need to engage everybody in this discussion in a way that leads to behavior change.”

For more information on the survey, visit: http://www.uhs.wisc.edu/AAUSurvey.html.

If you have concerns about sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking, confidential support and reporting options are available, including community services that are culturally specific. Visit: http://www.uhs.wisc.edu/assault/sa-resources.shtml.