“Man with knife,” the WiscAlert email subject line read.

Before I even finished reading the email, I said to the campus beat editor, “Call UWPD now.”

I then turned to the remaining three women — a photographer, a news editor and a copy editor — working in The Badger Herald office and said, “None of you are walking home on your own tonight. I’ll pay for your cab. Don’t walk alone.”

“WiscAlert – 2 reports of man in black long sleeve shirt, red & white sneakers, muscular build grabbing women on campus. Last seen running towards Memorial Union,” a screenshotted text alert from my roommate read.

“Be careful!” She wrote.

I wish I could say this was the first time this same course of action has happened in our office.

I was informed of a recent case of assault on April 8 at Memorial Union involving three alleged assailants in a way many of you probably did not. I learned of it while editing the article one of our associate editors wrote about it.

Sexual assault reported near Memorial UnionA first-degree sexual assault occurred Friday night between 10:00 p.m. and 10:40 p.m. near Memorial Union.  A woman was held down by Read…

It got me thinking — not for the first time — how many stories like this have I written, edited or read.

Following the April 8 incident, I texted former and current editors I’ve worked with.

“I’ve been thinking … there hasn’t been one month on campus since I started working [here] that we haven’t written about sexual assault. Does that sound right?” I wrote.

So I checked. I started my tenure as campus news editor covering the University of Wisconsin campus at the beginning of March 2014. I looked for coverage of any incident report of sexual assault, any campus initiative to combat sexual assault or any university investigation regarding the handling of sexual assault.

The results: We’ve written at least one story, if not more, about sexual assault every month since I started working for The Badger Herald.

After coming to that realization, I reflected on how this has affected my feeling of safety as a woman and my perspective on sexual assaults as a reporter. Step in my shoes as I walk with you on this difficult trip down memory lane.

As a reporter, my immediate reaction to learning of sexual assault … is to call a UWPD spokesperson. … As a woman, my immediate reaction is fear.

In the same month I started covering campus, the U.S. Department of Education began enforcing the Campus SaVE Act, which was amended to the Clery Act a year earlier. The amendment requires all postsecondary institutions to report “a broader range” of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking to the campus community.

This means campus-wide crime warnings ending with, “You are receiving this Crime Warning as part of UW-Madison’s commitment to providing campus-area crime information, in compliance with the federal Clery Act,” were increasingly showing up in student inboxes in order for UWPD to comply with the federal mandate.

As a reporter, my immediate reaction to learning of sexual assault from an email like that or an incident report is to call a UWPD spokesperson to discuss details of what happened. “Was the victim a student? How old? Did the victim know the suspect? Did it happen on campus grounds or in a residence hall?” These are lines I’ve recited many times.

As a woman, my immediate reaction is fear.

Suffocating my fear in order to report the news is a skill I’m mostly numb to now, but it wasn’t always that way.

When I became news editor the following semester in fall 2014, there were three instances of sexual assaults committed by a stranger… all within a few blocks of where I had just moved in mere days before.

Pay attention to the sequence of these reports.

  • Aug. 17, a man breaks into an apartment and assaults a woman while she’s asleep in her own bed.
  • Aug. 20, a woman is walking in Fahrenbrook Court when someone grabs her from behind, threatens to shoot her and assaults her in a parking lot.
  • Aug. 22, after leaving State Street late at night, a woman is assaulted in an alleyway near North Park Street.

That was my introduction to the role. For the rest of the year, I would be walking a mile from The Badger Herald office to my building usually well past midnight.

I was terrified. I cried. I wanted to call my mom. I didn’t call my mom. I called UWPD.

I had to write an article. In every call I made to UWPD, I was met with the same refrain: Stranger assaults are rare.

For a longer story I wrote about those stranger assaults, I called the Dane County Rape Crisis Center. The center’s director said 80 to 85 percent of perpetrators target people they know. The idea that all rapists are strangers in a dark alley is a false stigma.

Stranger sexual assaults rise as students return to MadisonThree sexual assaults committed by strangers were reported in the same week only days after students began returning to their Read…

This did little to soften my fear. The only thing that could help was time. Time until I’ve walked myself home without incident multiple days in a row. Enough time to remind myself this fear was justified, but wasn’t based in reason. Time spent telling myself that the number of women who get home safe is much higher than the number that don’t.

But time could only soothe me until the next Timely Warning popped up in my inbox or I came across a new police incident report. That time frame can range from a day to week or longer, but sometimes multiple assaults occur in shorter windows.

Like a weekend in April 2015 when three assaults were reported. One was in Memorial Library, two were in dorms. One was an acquaintance assault.

Three sexual assaults reported to UWPD over the weekendThree on-campus sexual assaults were reported to the University of Wisconsin Police Department over the weekend. A sexual assault occurred Read…

I still can’t wrap my head around these. You go to the library to study; it’s an assumption that you’ll feel safe. Your safety in a library shouldn’t be a question. A dorm is a student’s first home on campus. It’s where you meet your first friends. Your safety in a dorm with friends shouldn’t be a question. The fear came and went once again.

Then in fall 2015 when I started my year as The Badger Herald managing editor, an Association of American Universities study revealed 27.6 percent of female undergraduates on campus reported having experienced sexual assault on campus.

Report: More than one in four women sexually assaulted at UWUniversity of Wisconsin released data Monday, Sept. 21, showing nearly 28 percent of undergraduate females reported experiencing sexual assault involving force or Read…

It was in editing that story that I looked around our office — our majority female office — and I felt a responsibility as a leader in our organization to do something. I felt it was my duty. I somehow felt accountable. But what could I do?

About a month ago during this current spring semester, I edited an article about a woman who was choked on State Street in the middle of the day at 3:45 p.m.

Police break up ugly fight on State StreetPolice broke up a fight Saturday afternoon on State Street that erupted after a man was seen choking a young Read…

After reading this, I loaded up an Amazon shopping cart with $105 worth of self-defense keychains to give my Badger Herald female co-workers.

By the end of production, I emptied the cart.

A keychain can only reasonably provide peace of mind — at best. It’s not going to protect one of my colleagues who goes home with someone they falsely believe they can trust. It’s not going to protect someone if it’s left in their purse while they study in the library. It’s not going to protect them while they’re asleep in their bed if someone breaks in.

After all the time over the past two years reading, reporting and editing articles about sexual assault, I’m educated enough to know change doesn’t start with a keychain, it starts with a conversation.

So let’s talk.

***

List of stories since March 2014 when I started as campus editor:

Editor’s note: Our production cycle aligns with the academic calendar from late August to early December and then again from late January to early May. Incidents occurring in months falling outside of that time frames may be unaccounted for.

2014

I begin my time as campus associate editor in March.

Police arrest 6 in connection with sexual assault and home invasionSix suspects are in custody in connection with a brutal home burglary on Madison’s north side that happened Feb. 23, Read…

Former UW football recruit charged with felony sexual assaultA former University of Wisconsin football recruit was charged with felony sexual assault for an incident that occurred in a Read…

UWPD: Sexual assault reported Sunday did not occur in campus residence hallAfter a sexual assault was reported on campus early Sunday morning, investigators say the assault did not occur in a Read…

Victim flees attempted assault in downtown Madison by jumping into taxiA downtown resident was able to escape into a nearby taxi after being grabbed by a male suspect who had Read…

SUMMER BREAK

Former UW recruit found guilty of felony sexual assaultFormer University of Wisconsin football recruit Dominic Cizauskas, 18, was found guilty of felony third degree sexual assault by a Read…

Production begins late August.

21-year-old woman sexually assaulted near UW campusA 21-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by a stranger after being followed along S. Park Street at 2:40 a.m. Wednesday Read…

Sexual assault reported on N. Park StreetOn Friday at approximately 1:30 a.m., a 21-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by a stranger near 21 N. Park Street, according to a Read…

Stranger sexual assaults rise as students return to MadisonThree sexual assaults committed by strangers were reported in the same week only days after students began returning to their Read…

UW System launches task force to address sexual assaultThe University of Wisconsin System is stepping up efforts to decrease sexual violence through a new task force aimed at Read…

Transcript: Interview with UW’s Rebecca Blank and Lori BerquamThe Badger Herald and The Daily Cardinal last week interviewed University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Dean of Students Read…

Sexual assault reported outside campus buildingUniversity of Wisconsin police are investigating a reported sexual assault that occurred late Saturday outside a campus building. According to Read…

December, production ends. 

2015

Production begins late January.

Updated: Charges dismissed in October sexual assault caseUpdate Nov. 16: Criminal charges were dismissed in August 2015 when the plaintiff backed out possibility of a trial, according Read…

Sexual assault reported in student housingA sexual assault was reported to the University Of Wisconsin Police Department Monday evening. The reported assault took place this Read…

Sexual assault reported near Kollege Klub BarA 23-year-old Lake Geneva woman was sexually assaulted near Kollege Klub Bar around 1:40 a.m Sunday morning, according to a Read…

Sexual assault reported on North Henry Street early Sunday A Madison woman was sexually assaulted early Sunday morning on the 500 block of North Henry Street, according to a Read…

Sexual assault reported at Memorial UnionA sexual assault occurred at University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union March 6 sometime in the evening. The sexual assault was anonymously Read…

Former UW student sentenced to three years probation for campus sexual assaultA former University of Wisconsin student was sentenced to three years probation for a sexual assault he committed in a Read…

Student reports sexual assault in Southeast residence hallA sexual assault which occurred in a Southeast residence hall was reported to a University of Wisconsin employee Sunday. The Read…

Three sexual assaults reported to UWPD over the weekendThree on-campus sexual assaults were reported to the University of Wisconsin Police Department over the weekend. A sexual assault occurred Read…

Sexual assault occurred in Southeast residence hall SundayA University of Wisconsin student reported a sexual assault Tuesday evening that occurred in a Southeast residence hall over the Read…

Former UW student sentenced for sexual assault in Witte in 2014Retraction: This post has been updated to remove details from the case in protection of the victim. A former University Read…

Man found guilty of sexual assault in 2011 sentenced to 16 years in prisonA man was sentenced to 16 years in prison Tuesday for sexual assault and disorderly conduct he committed in downtown Read…

Production ends early May.

SUMMER BREAK

Production begins late August.

Sexual assault reported at residence hallUniversity of Wisconsin Police Department issued a crime warning for a Sept. 6 sexual assault late Sunday night. The incident Read…

Suspect at large following sexual assault on capital bike pathThe Madison Police Department is urging caution following a violent sexual assault that occurred early Saturday morning on the Capital City Bike Read…

Sexual assault reported in residence hall Saturday, marks second report this yearA sexual assault was reported on campus during the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 12, according to University of Wisconsin Read…

On-campus sexual assault reported, second this weekA second sexual assault was reported to have occurred on campus on Saturday, Sept. 12, according to University of Wisconsin Police Department. UWPD received the Read…

UPDATE: UW student found not guilty of sexual assault chargesA University of Wisconsin freshman was arrested Friday, Sept. 18, in connection with a sexual assault reported in a university residence Read…

Rain or shine: Community rallies in support of sexual assault victimHundreds of community members marched from Burr Jones Field to Central Park Thursday evening, Sept. 17, to protest “rape culture” Read…

Sexual assault reported in fraternity houseA sexual assault was reported during the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 19, in an off-campus University of Wisconsin Read…

Report: More than one in four women sexually assaulted at UWUniversity of Wisconsin released data Monday, Sept. 21, showing nearly 28 percent of undergraduate females reported experiencing sexual assault involving force or Read…

Local officials seek to improve bike path lighting after brutal sexual assaultLocal officials have announced measures to improve the safety of a Marquette Neighborhood bike path in response to the sexual Read…

Rejecting silence: Student survivors take control, speak out on sexual violenceEditor’s note: Trigger warning for sexual assault.  Waking up on Valentine’s Day freshman year, the night before was vague. Puzzled, I looked Read…

Two complaints filed to Office for Civil Rights draw federal department to UW this week, investigation pendingFollowing two complaints filed with the federal Office for Civil Rights, the department will travel to University of Wisconsin this week to address the Read…

December, production ends.

2016

Production begins late January.

University of Wisconsin under federal investigation for handling of sexual assault casesWith three open federal investigations into possible violations in handling sexual assault cases, the University of Wisconsin has the fourth highest Read…

UHS unveils $400,000 initiative to curb sexual assault, gender-based violenceUniversity Health Services announced Tuesday it is seeking funding for initiatives focused on gender-based violence prevention within Greek life and Read…

47 percent of female Native American UW students reported being sexually assaultedStudents, faculty, community members and elders of Wisconsin’s Native Tribes gathered Wednesday night around a “community healing circle” to raise awareness of Read…

Sexual assault reported at SACUniversity of Wisconsin Police Department released a crime warning Friday following the report of a sexual assault at the Student Read…

Sexual assault reported at fraternity houseUniversity Wisconsin Police Department issued a crime warning Sunday of a reported sexual assault that occurred earlier that morning at Read…

Sexual assault reported near Memorial UnionA first-degree sexual assault occurred Friday night between 10:00 p.m. and 10:40 p.m. near Memorial Union.  A woman was held down by Read…