Letter to the Editor: UW is falling behind in its support for survivors

Lack of available resources, active counseling leaves students vulnerable

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Content warning: references to sexual violence and/or other possible traumatic experiences

On a campus where nearly 1 in 7 students have experienced sexual violence since enrolling, and only 46% of students understand what campus resources are available to them in the face of violence, it is hard not to be exhausted.

Survivors are exhausted. Their support people are exhausted. And those attempting to build a safer community on campus are feeling left behind to deal with their exhaustion by themselves. We need more help. 

The current state of survivor services is grim – one advocate, on a limited tenure until the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crimes grant funding her position expires, has services only available during business hours. Mental health services on campus are being pushed to capacity, and there are countless stories of students being pushed to the margins and referred to other services, each as overrun as the other. Students and survivors deserve to be supported, and month-long waitlists and appointment-only services are barriers to them getting that support. 

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As a result, student organizations like Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, also known as PAVE, have taken on the work that isn’t being done by the university — we become the therapists, the support lines, the advocates, the educators.

We sit on shared governance committees and student government committees and university committees. We go into classrooms and we give workshops and we organize events and we speak on panels. When the waitlists are full at University Health Services, and survivors experiencing trauma in November are told to wait until second semester for help, we become what survivors need. We fill in.

We demand something different. We demand something better. We are demanding your action.

We are a coalition of students demanding our administration take notice of the crisis in front of them. When we engage in anti-violence work, we engage with the work as students, and despite our knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm for the world we want to see, this work is not ours to do alone.

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The work is hard and draining, and the burden for creating the systems of change and support should not stand on the shoulders of student survivors. We all have a story — no one of us has lived a life untouched by violence, but we don’t experience this campus holding the same influence to change. 

We’ve done what we can. Here’s what we need:

  1. Increased funding for Survivor Services and Mental Health Services 
  2. Expanding the accessibility and availability for services, including:
    1. Weekend support
    2. Drop-in availability
    3. Advocacy in spaces where students are (ex. dorms and learning communities, the Student Activity Center, RecWell facilities, the Red Gym)
  3. Hiring more staff on the Survivor Services and Violence Prevention teams to meet the need of students, including dedicated advocates for students with identities more susceptible to violence on our campus, such as LBGQ+ students, TGQN students, students of color, students with disabilities, international students, and students with intersecting identities
  4. Continuing participation with the American Association of Universities (AAU)’s surveys on campus sexual violence
  5. A strategic planner at the Assistant Vice Chancellor level who would coordinate University response to RVSM (Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct), similar to the models seen at other Big 10 institutions – develop a strategic plan, etc. 
  6. A transparent evaluation process that sees through the implementation of initiatives, ensuring student feedback at every step

It’s time for our administration to prove to survivors what they need. Join us in our call for action here.

Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE-UW) is a student organization dedicated to preventing sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking through education and activism. If you or someone you know has experienced violence and is looking for resources, visit our website to see our Campus Resource GuideCONTACT [email protected] with questions.


Letters to the editor are published on the discretion of the opinion desk and editor. They may not reflect the views of the Herald. Email your own letters to the editor to [email protected]

This article was published Feb 1, 2022 at 9:13 am and last updated Feb 1, 2022 at 9:22 am


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