After a recent report found an increase in cases of sexual assault on the University of Wisconsin campus, new efforts have been set in motion in an effort to ensure safety on campus.
In 2010, nine forcible sex offenses and 13 sexual offenses were reported to the Dean of Students Office, according to a UW report. In 2009, the number of forcible sex offenses was four, with 11 sex offenses reported to the Dean’s Office. There were five forcible sex offenses reported in 2008, with eight overall sex offenses reported.
Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the city’s government is taking steps to reduce sexual assault and keep the campus safe, in part by using city funding to boost services and make the city safer for all students.
“This two-fold approach will help provide services to victims as well as create a safer environment for everyone on campus,” Resnick said.
Resnick added one way the city will improve campus safety will occur next summer when more lights will be added on Henry Street, Orchard Street, Frances Street and Spring Street. He said this will help because a majority of the cases of sexual assault and other violent crimes occur at night.
Jacqueline O’Reilly, spokesperson for the student organization Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, said in an email to The Badger Herald that in one sense, an increase in reports leads people to believe there are more assaults now than in the past. She said the higher numbers could mean more students are feeling comfortable enough to report the incidents.
“We hope this number means students are more aware of the resources available to them and are more comfortable reaching out for whatever type of help they are looking for,” O’Reilly said.
Project Director for University Health Services Carmen Hotvedt said in an email to The Badger Herald UHS is one source of help for sexual assault victims. Hotvedt said UHS did a study in 2009 and 2010 that revealed the biggest barriers for victims of violent acts, especially sexual assault, is reporting or receiving help.
Hotvedt said these barriers included lack of awareness of where to find help, lack of privacy, the use of alcohol and the common social belief that blame incidents on the victims. She added UHS has made a number of adjustments to further help victims since the study was released.
“We’ve worked to ensure that underage victims will not be arrested or punished for underage alcohol use if they report, published a victim’s bill of rights [and] created a series of web videos about the services available to student victims in an effort to make those offices more accessible” Hotvedt said.
She added they are working on the production of a first-year prevention program for next fall.
O’Reilly said students also have a role to play in the reduction of sexual assault on campus by knowing how to keep themselves safe, even amid improvements to the lighting and police force located on campus.
“Educating ourselves and each other is the first, and perhaps most important, step in understanding the dynamics and realities of sexual assault,” O’Reilly said. “The ways to go about educating oneself are endless. People just need to be willing to pursue them. Once that happens, we will see a huge cultural shift.”