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UW–Madison strives to improve sexual assault reporting processes

October 22, 2012

Yesterday’s Daily Cardinal published a letter from a graduate of UW–Madison outlining her experiences following a sexual assault while she was enrolled as a student. We’re deeply saddened to learn of her experience and want to explain how we’re working to end sexual violence on the UW–Madison campus.

We know that the emotional, academic, and health consequences can be wrenching, not only for survivors, but also for the campus community at large. These crimes will not be tolerated in our campus community.

From our research, we know there are multiple reasons that students at UW–Madison do not report, or seek help after experiencing, sexual assault or dating violence. Despite our extensive efforts, the process is imperfect. But UW–Madison is committed to addressing the specific flaws and creating a climate that encourages reporting.

Students who choose to report their experiences to campus or local law enforcement or a university official, such as an assistant dean of students, are entitled to have their experiences taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.

Both the criminal justice system and campus judicial process are respectful of the wishes of the survivor with regard to confidentiality and privacy. Specifically, if a student does not wish an investigation or judicial hearing to move forward due to his or her emotional needs or concerns for perpetrator retaliation, law enforcement professionals and campus disciplinary officers will do their best to honor those wishes while still upholding their duty to address the safety concerns on campus for other students.

The UW–Madison Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights can be found here.

Students always have the right to have an advocate of their choosing, including one from the Rape Crisis Center, present at any stage of the reporting or help-seeking process. Students may choose to file a complaint via the Dean of Students Office and/or report the crime to local law enforcement, such as the UW Police Department. In order to make the process less traumatic for a survivor who does not want to tell his or her story repeatedly, the offices can work together to take a joint statement.   

UW–Madison is committed to ensuring victims of crimes are able to get the help they need, even if they were drinking underage at the time.

UW–Madison, through a contract administered by the Associated Students of Madison, has a partnership with the Rape Crisis Center, a local agency dedicated to providing free, confidential advocacy and support to survivors of sexual assault and their friends or family. An advocate from the Rape Crisis Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 608-251-7273.

We strongly believe in both the dedication of our caring staff and the transparency of our campus processes. University Health Services (UHS) employs two professional staff solely dedicated to sexual assault and domestic/dating violence prevention at UW–Madison. The EVOC Initiative’s 31 campus and community partners, are committed to training, professional development and education to address these issues on campus.

We truly hope that this alumna’s experience does not dissuade other survivors of sexual assault from coming forward and reporting their experiences. If you would like to report or have questions or comments, we encourage you to contact us at 608-263-5700,, or learn more here.

Lastly, if you have had a similarly negative experience as a survivor, we would like to hear from you because we care and want to learn what happened. It’s one of the only ways we can continue to improve and serve students better.

— Lori Berquam, Dean of Students

— Chief Susan Riseling, University of Wisconsin Police Department

— Sarah Van Orman, M.D., Director, University Health Services