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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


On, off campus groups raise awareness of 23rd annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month

‘The work we do is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,’ RCC Executive Director says
Jaime Sathasivam/Rape Crisis Center

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence. If you have been sexually assaulted, experienced domestic violence, or are not sure, there are several ways to get support. View options on campus through University Health Services.

Editor’s Note: In this article, individuals who have experienced sexual assault or sexual violence will be referred to as survivors, but it should be noted that not all people with these experiences identify with this term.

April is the 23rd annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a period of increased international advocacy dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence and to educating communities on how to prevent it.


In Madison, groups on and off campus are using events, advocacy, outreach, education and media throughout the month to promote prevention and awareness.

Spearheading many local efforts is The Dane County RCC: Sexual Violence Resource Center. The RCC centers survivors in their work to advocate for those impacted by sexual violence, stimulate societal change and support social equity progress. The RCC provides direct service to survivors including legal and medical accompaniments, emotional support and advocacy, therapy, prevention education and outreach.

Executive Director of Dane County RCC: Sexual Violence Resource Center Dana Pellebon said despite this period of increased promotion, the advocacy goes beyond just April.

“The work we do is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Pellebon.

Pellebon said RCC staff are not the only ones passionate about this work. Rather, there are partners throughout the community that want to see an eradication of sexual violence.

At the University of Wisconsin, a goal for the month is to draw attention to sexual assault prevention and activism on campus, much of it by student activists, survivor activists and people with historically marginalized identities, University Health Services Director of Survivor Services Molly Caradonna said in an email statement to The Badger Herald.

The work reaches many corners of campus. This past summer, UW researchers received funding to conduct research on post-sexual assault care for survivors of color, LGBTQ+ survivors and survivors living in poverty. The research, led by UW associate professor in the gender and women’s studies and psychology departments Kate Walsh, focuses on the provision of identity focused and culturally specific care.

Throughout April, UHS Survivor Services and Violence Prevention is hosting a series of “Connect & Reflect” events — where student survivors and allies can “reclaim campus, find community amongst other survivors and allies, and reduce the stigma around survivorship,” Caradonna said. The “Reflect: Art and History Gallery” at the Discovery Building will highlight the past 50 years of sexual assault activism at UW and nationally, alongside a gallery of survivor art.

“The unfortunate reality is that, despite sexual assault being a shared experience for many students on campus, many survivors feel alone and invisible,” Caradonna said in the statement. “The ‘Connect’ events aim to combat the stigma and isolation we know many survivors feel, providing safe spaces for growth and healing, and opportunities to connect with others who support, understand, and affirm them.”

UHS Survivor Services at UW offers no-cost and confidential support services, education and outreach related to sexual and relationship violence all year. 

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. On college campuses, one in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted, but more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. Nationally, 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police.

Pellebon said the lack of reporting stems from the stigmatization of sexual violence. But having a safe space can help change that.

“At RCC, that’s exactly what we do,” Pellebon said.

In a 2023 interview with The Badger Herald, Pellebon said support for SAAM builds each year. This year, the RCC is hosting and promoting a variety of events, including Chimera self defense, a Safer Bar session, a collaboration with Lakeside Coffee and a burlesque show at the Majestic. Some Safer Bar partners will also have month-long drink specials through which a portion of the sales will go to RCC. More of this month’s events can be found on the RCC website.

The RCC also has a English and Spanish helpline available for survivors, loved ones, people seeking more information or those want to be able to support someone who has experienced sexual violence. The numbers for these helplines are included at the resources at the bottom of this article.

Pellebon said SAAM is an important month because it calls attention to the widespread instances and impacts of sexual violence in the community.

“We need to make sure that people understand what is happening out in the world and how it is affecting every one of us every single day,” Pellebon said.

Pellebon said empowering survivors in their own journey is crucial.

“What’s most important is for people to believe survivors and to allow them to make the choices that are best for them,” Pellebon said. “We cannot determine what a survivor should do with their situation. Instead, we need to allow them to make the choice for themselves and give them back the power and control over what is happening to them.”

Resources regarding sexual assault:

  • UHS Survivor Services for confidential, no cost victim advocacy, mental health and/or medical support, including forensic nurse exams available onsite at UHS: [email protected]; 608-265-5600 (option 3); or self-schedule using the MyUHS app
  • Dane County RCC: Sexual Violence Resource Center English Language Help Line: 6082517273
  • Dane County RCC: Sexual Violence Resource Center Spanish Language Help Line: 6082582567
  • UHS Survivor Services: [email protected], 608-265-5600 ext 3
  • UHS Survivor Services Crafty Coping drop-in support group
  • ACTWIse Bystander Intervention (online)
  • Let’s Talk:
    • Sex, Sexuality and Healthy Relationships” section
    • “Student survivors of sexual and relationship violence” section
  • Room to be Safe: For Queer survivors of violence: (414) 856-LGBT (5428)
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224
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