Student groups, community organizations and legislators combined efforts Tuesday in the fight to against sexual assault.
Men Opposing Sexual Assault, in conjunction with PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment), conducted a silent rally on the Capitol steps Tuesday to help promote awareness of this legislation and of victim suffering.
Austin King, legislative coordinator for MOSA, expressed hope the battles for awareness of sexual assault and legislative action can be won.
“Sexual assault is a silent crime on this campus,” King said. “You can’t break the silence with only a few of the voices clamoring.”
State Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, authored and will introduce legislation in the state Assembly to reinstate alcohol’s status as an intoxicant that can affect brain activity and prohibit a victim from legally providing consent. In 1997, when certain “date rape” drugs were given the distinction as intoxicating substances, alcohol was removed from the list.
Various Madison community organizations formally announced a new initiative to fight sexual assault on campus. Representatives from University Health Services, the dean of students office and MOSA, as well as Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, were on hand to unveil the “I have the power, we have the courage to stop sexual assault” campaign.
The idea behind the campaign was generated by students in a public-relations class taught by UW-Madison professor Steve Sparks.
“As the group members worked to develop the campaign, they were quite surprised by some of the reactions they received from other students about sexual violence,” Sparks said. “Then they really became enthused about the need for this campaign.”
The students brought the idea to University Health Services, who in turn worked with members of the Dane County Board to bring the project to fruition.
“Our community does not tolerate in any way, shape or form acts of violence upon its members, and sexual assault is an act of violence,” Falk said. “Dane County will appropriate $5,000 of the county budget to further this effort.”
The initial phase of the campaign will include posters on Metro buses as well as at numerous locations around campus. These posters present the results of a 1995 Sexual Violations Survey that found one in eight female undergraduate students are sexually assaulted during their time at UW.
In 1995, 17 incidences of sexual assault were reported by UW students. By 2000, that number had climbed to 58. In 36 of the 58 assaults, alcohol was involved. In 88 percent of reported incidences last year the victim knew the perpetrator.
Planned for release in the spring of 2002, a second poster featuring three or four male UW students will encourage men to take responsibility for preventing sexual assault.
UHS director Kathleen Poi said the male student involvement is critical to the reduction sexual assault on campus because men typically do not consider their roles in preventing attacks on females.
“This is not a new issue on campus,” Poi said. “However, it is promising that we now have a media campaign developed by students for students, because we feel members of the campus community will follow best what their peers have said.”