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UHS has units dedicated to preventing violence and supporting survivors
Sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence are realities on college campuses nationwide, including UW-Madison, and these crimes effect all students. University Health Services (UHS) has units dedicated to preventing violence before it happens—including programs for students meant to build their capacity to prevent violence on campus—and address the needs of victims or survivors after it happens.
A 2015 UW-Madison survey found that more than one in four (27.6 percent) undergraduate female students experience nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching. Perpetrators were overwhelmingly identified as other students who are male, often a friend or acquaintance. Of students who experienced penetration by force, 26.1 percent reported the incident.
As part of UHS’s commitment to creating a safe and healthy campus environment, all first-year and new transfer students are required to participate in education (U Got This! and Get WIse) about consent, healthy relationships, bystander intervention, and support for survivors. These programs are designed to address harmful attitudes and build skills for fostering a safe, healthy campus. Additional training opportunities are available for students. ActWIse is a home-grown bystander intervention program developed to help build capacity to prevent sexual assault and dating violence. ActWIse includes three programming options: A 60- to 90-minute introductory workshop; a six-hour skills trainings; and a two-day facilitator training. All programs are available at no cost.
“We’re excited that this program will directly respond to campus-specific data we have around bystander efficacy,” says Nola Pastor, Violence Prevention Specialist and ActWIse coordinator. “Participants will learn to understand how their personal values and perspectives inform how to intervene when they witness inappropriate behavior and how to help change cultural norms around sexual violence.”
Pastor says ActWIse is used as a community education strategy for student populations with high levels of influence on campus culture and norms including student-athletes and members of fraternities and sororities. “ActWIse works best for groups that have shared values and purpose, but it’s suitable for any campus audience—whether you’re a student group, a faculty member, or staff department.”
A common misperception about sexual assault is that if alcohol was involved, the assault was an accident or a miscommunication. Alcohol does not cause sexual assault or dating violence, however, it can be used as a tool by the perpetrator to facilitate sexual assault by impacting a person’s vulnerability and hindering their resistance.
Alcohol does not make someone a perpetrator of sexual assault. Men, for example, who sexually assault are already showing signs of aggression toward women. “What the research from the perpetrators is showing is that it’s a very planned, very methodical course of action,” says Zemke. Only four to six percent of men on a college campus commit or attempt rape. One in four women may be sexually assaulted, but one in four men are not sexual assault perpetrators. This means perpetrators are committing rape more than once. Serial perpetrators, which make up between two to four percent of college men, may demonstrate hostile attitudes toward women and often have a belief of entitlement to sex. Zemke says perpetrators may try things from touching someone’s arm to waist and seeing how they’ll react, or surveying how many people are around them.
Zemke explains other warning signs to watch for are phrases such as, “I’m getting laid tonight no matter what,” or “I’m going to give this person another drink,” versus a non-threatening saying like, “I hope we meet some hot people tonight.”
If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual violence, help is available. Confidential victim advocacy services are available at UHS by calling 608.265.5600 (option 3) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional resources and information can be found at uhs.wisc.edu/survivor.
Written by Emilie Burditt, UHS Communications Assistant