On Sunday evening, students did not receive a WiscAlert. This is disturbing, because when a violent sexual assault occurs in the heart of campus, I think it’s well within our right to know.
It was only by overhearing snippets of conversation transpiring between coworkers on Monday that I learned on late Saturday night, a 23-year old woman was cornered by two men and assaulted in the State Street parking ramp across the street from my apartment. Perhaps at the time I was sleeping, or perhaps I was, like so many other nights, crossing Lake Street on my way home from College Library as the ramp loomed on my right.
The State Street ramp is sandwiched by apartments stocked with hundreds, if not thousands, of University of Wisconsin students. When friends from out of town come to visit, the ramp houses their cars for a few days, and on late, rainy nights, girls can be seen ducking under its shelter waiting for the rain to subdue.
The point is, this ramp is no stranger to the women on campus. This is not an alleyway tucked somewhere behind the Capitol or a garage south of Regent. This is probably the first place so many of us parked before we gallivanted off to SOAR all those years ago. So why didn’t this pop up in our mailbox? Because WiscAlerts are handled by the University of Wisconsin Police Department, and the Madison Police Department is responsible for handling the investigation into this assault.
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…
UW has engaged in conversation about the unacceptable prevalence of sexual assault on our campus for several years, and certainly within the last few semesters, as we have come under investigation. Panel discussions, meetings and forums repeatedly call for transparency, training and education, and law enforcement assures us this is one of their top priorities.
But when an event like this slips us by, it’s more than an accident. It’s careless and dangerous stupidity. Rape culture is perpetuated not by blatant encouragement of assault, but by lack of acknowledgement and silent tolerance.
I couldn’t care less who is investigating this assault. If it’s happening within a mile of me, I want to know. If it’s happening within 1,000 feet of me, I need to know.
Understandably, most of us don’t like hearing these horror stories on our way to class. But we need to be exceedingly vigilant in the case of assault. Women on campus, for the sake of their health and safety, cannot afford to take the risks of not being prepared to defend themselves. And men on campus must be made aware of the frequency with which this is happening because they are an irreplaceable and critical part of the solution.
College students are not at significantly higher risk of theft, vandalism or robbery than their non-college attending counterparts are, but we absolutely are more likely to face sexual assault. MPD doesn’t need to clutter our Wiscmail with updates on every crime they are investigating. But if it’s an assault within feet of our major libraries, steps from our most frequented block and blocks from our homes, they should at least have the foresight to let us know.
I’ve heard the argument from many that there is “no reason to scare us.”
Well, women are already scared. And they have a right to be.
But fear is not ubiquitously a bad thing. Fear is necessary. In its absence, no one would feel inclined to shield themselves from danger. In this case more than any other, none of us are invincible.
I don’t care if it’s UWPD, MPD, the New York Police Department or the Federal Bureau of Investigation — sexual assaults in our dorms, frat houses, libraries, house parties and parking ramps are our shared burden regardless of the name on the badge of an investigative officer. We can’t afford to stop talking about sexual assault when lives are on the line.