Sexual assault on the UW-Madison campus

By: - October 15, 2019 2:55 pm
Bascom Hall on the UW Madison campus in fall

Bascom Hall on the UW Madison campus in Madison, WI (CC by 2.0 generic)

Resources and services for victims and survivors of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking are available on campus and in the Madison community or email [email protected]

Today UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank addressed the campus and community in an open letter after results of a national 2019 survey on sexual assault on campus showed that more than one out of every four women undergraduates said they had been sexually assaulted at the UW-Madison. 

While the numbers were on par with other campuses participating in the Association of American Universities’ 2019 survey, Blank called them “distressingly high.”

She also noted that accounts of sexual assault were disproportionately high for LGBTQ students and students with disabilities. There was also a rise in men reporting being sexually assaulted.

“I am deeply grateful to the students who took the time to share their experiences, understanding how difficult that can be,” wrote Blank. “Your courage and honesty will help our campus become a safer and more supportive environment.”

Approximately 20% of students participated in the survey with 26.1% of undergraduate women responding that they experienced some form of sexual assault and 11% reporting having experienced assault by penetration. Blank stated that “even a single incident of sexual assault is too many.”

The survey was conducted over six weeks in the spring of 2019, with a small incentive for participation. The full results can be found here

One positive development Blank cites for UW-Madison is that while sexual assault rates remain similar to other universities participating in the report, there was not a significant increase at UW-Madison. 

Rates for undergraduate women rose between 2015 and 2019 for other AAU participating institutions.

During that same time period, UW-Madison undergraduates and graduate students showed increased levels of knowledge about campus resources relating to sexual assaults, higher than at other universities. The survey also showed that students who see “concerning behavior” take action to prevent “further harm.”

Next steps 

Results from the 2015 survey led to the campus enhancing its programs, including hiring additional staff in the Title IX Office as well as University Health Services. Mandatory prevention training for faculty, staff and graduate students was added, and in-person mandatory education was expanded for undergraduate students.

“Surveys like this one are a critical tool for assessing and improving our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence and to support all survivors,” wrote Blank.

Currently 87% of all sexual assaults go unreported to any campus resource center, according to the report. “This means that students are not able to access critical support such as mental health services and academic accommodations,” the report notes. “Going forward we want to ensure more students are getting the support they need.”

The results are one step in the process before there is a final report, which will contain recommended action steps. There will be a series of listening sessions which will also be used to form “concrete recommendations for the campus moving forward,” according to the summary in the report, which also states a final report with this information will be published in the spring 2020 semester.

The final report will contain more data broken down further by race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Detailed information on the three forums is here. The first one is Nov. 4 at 4:30 pm in Gordon Dining & Event Center on the undergraduate results. Subsequent forums will be Nov. 7 on graduate and professional student results and Nov. 19 on underrepresented student results.

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.