The UW-Milwaukee Student Association is joining nearly 200 campuses nationwide and three other UW schools in a campaign, publicly launched Friday by the White House, to prevent sexual assault within college town borders, and in the community.
The “It’s on Us” campaign seeks to engage college students and all members of campus communities in preventing sexual assault in the first place, according to the White House press release.
“The goal for us student body presidents is to give positive pressure to avoid sexual assault, but also make sure resources are available if it were to happen on campus,” Ryan Sorenson, president of the Student Association said. “Hopefully our initiatives can expand into the community.”
United State’s Vice President Joe Biden said during the launching speech that three years ago he asked the United States via social media what to do to make campus safer, after learning that one in 10 females are sexually assaulted on college campus. He says that the number one response is to “get men involved.”
Most men are not comfortable with violence against women according to the release, but not being a part of the solution may make you part of the problem.
Research shows that bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping sexual assault before it happens, as bystanders play a key role in preventing, discouraging, and/or intervening when an act of violence has the potential to occur the release states.
Sue McCarthy, interim director at the UWM’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC), agrees that few college males are offenders, but everyone needs to participate in preventing the rape culture on college campuses.
“Gender roles are a large factor,” McCarthy said. “(It) encourages this objectification of women.”
Last year there were seven sexual assaults reported on campus, all of them against women according to the dean of students.
While that number seems low, McCarthy said that sexual assaults have an incredibly high rate of under reporting.
“It’s important to note there are many reasons that victims don’t report,” McCarthy said. “We have a long history of victim blaming, also over half of women don’t identify what happened to them as sexual assault.”
Nearly 90 percent of sexual assaults are done by someone the victim knows. According to McCarthy they typically are not violent either.
“The rapists uses whatever they need to simply get what they want. It might be peer pressure or alcohol,” McCarthy said.
Drinking alcohol can easily be a facilitative factor in sexual assault, which is a common activity among college students.
Drugs may also be a facilitator, and recently could have been a scare for the UWM campus.
As previously reported, the UWM chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity on 3321 N. Oakland Ave., is currently facing allegations of sneaking “date rape” drugs into female’s drinks during a party at their house on Sept. 13.
The UWM Police Department and WRC did not want to comment on “date rape” drugs while the incident is being investigated, but McCarthy finds the allegations “incredibly concerning and heartbreaking.”
Vice Chancellor Tom Luljak said that at this there have been no reports of sexual assaults in connection with the party held by the fraternity in a statement.
Sexual assault cases like this one have been in the spotlight across the county, but McCarthy thinks that in the last few years campuses have been growing in assault prevention and providing appropriate resources.
She notes the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act as a step in the right direction. The law requires any victims of sexual assault have the right to: be assisted by campus authorities to report a crime; change academic, living, transportation, or working situations to avoid hostile environments; obtain a restraining order; and other measures.
Victims of assault are able to go to the Equity of Diversity Services office, campus police or the dean of students, if the offender is a student. Students are able to go to norris health center and the WRC to talk confidentially. Anonymous reports can be made in a forum on the dean of students website. Students can also file a 3rd party complaint through the WRC.
A lot of campuses have been making progress,” Sorenson said, “but there’s always room for improvment.”
“I think we’re doing really well with what we have, and I’ve always felt supported in my work,” McCarthy said.
She did say though, if improvements are made she wouldn’t mind hiring just one more helper in the WRC to continue their cause.
If you or someone you know have been affected by a sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, date rape, ect., call the WRC at 414-229-2852.
You can also call the Milwaukee sexual assault treatment center, 414-219-5555, for confidential calls, emergency contraceptives and rape kits.