Two rapes were reported on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus in 2012, ten in 2013 and one in 2014, according to the 2015 Annual Security & Safety Report. Additionally, in 2015, a Sexual Violence Campus Climate Report concluded that while sexual violence rates at UW-Platteville are comparable to other universities surveyed, the campus has a “more pervasive climate of harassment.”
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is in full swing, but the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Sexual Assault Awareness Council works to plan awareness events year round, said council chair and assistant professor of criminal justice Amy Nemmetz.
Several events have already taken place including a Red My Lips event, a partnership between Wilgus Hall and Melcher Hall, at which participants wore red lipstick to show support for sexual assault awareness. Other events held in April have included a Panty Pulping event in which underwear was transformed into paper art, and a panel discussion titled Are You Man Enough? that attracted approximately 60 students, both male and female.
In honor of the month, the council also plans to distribute business cards and information about campus confidential and reporting resources that are available to those who have been a victim of sexual assault. Campus resources are differentiated between confidential and reporting so that students are aware of which will lead to a university investigation and which will not.
SAAM will conclude with a silent auction and dinner fundraiser held on April 30, but the council intends to hold events throughout the year.
“We didn’t want all sorts of [events] in April and nothing the rest of the time,” Nemmetz said. She also said that while “fun brings people in,” she thinks the events are a good combination of both awareness and fun. Deirdre Dalsing of UW-Platteville Counseling Services said she also thinks that it is important to raise awareness throughout the year, but that April still plays an important role. Dalsing said that while some students who have experienced sexual assault do come forward for help and counseling, others may still be reluctant to.
“We know too many young women and young men living with [sexual assault experiences] who haven’t shared that or asked for help. That’s why April is such a big deal in terms of sexual assault awareness,” Dalsing said.
While Dalsing said that the Sexual Assault Awareness Council has been around on the UW-Platteville campus as long as she has—13 years—she referred to the Spring 2015 Sexual Violence Campus Climate Report as a potential source of renewed efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault on campus.
According to that document, one of the key findings of the report was that there is a more “pervasive climate of harassment [at UW-Platteville] when compared to other schools.” The report stated that 78.8 percent of UW-Platteville students reported experiencing at least one form of harassment since the beginning of the academic year in which the report was conducted. The report compared this number to the aggregate percentage of universities surveyed, which was 48 percent.
While the report stated that UW-Platteville has a similar rate of sexual violence compared to other universities surveyed, “female-identified students and LGBTQ-identified students experience both harassment and violence at disproportionality higher rates than other students at UW-Platteville.” According to the report, 81 percent of female-identified respondents experienced at least one form of harassment, and 17.4 percent experienced at least one form of sexual violence. Additionally, 89.2 percent of LGBQ-identified respondents experienced at least one form of harassment and 16.2 percent experienced at least one form of sexual violence.
Dalsing said that the aftermath of a sexual assault can affect almost every aspect of a victim’s life. She said that according to statistics, 90 percent of sexual assaults involve a person known to the victim.
“Not only [does the victim] have that stigma of what will people think or [the question of] are people going to believe me,” Dalsing said, but “that person could be in [the victim’s] class or in their residence hall.” She said that not only does the victim deal with the emotional impact of the trauma itself, but also distraction and an inability to concentrate that could interfere with their ability to complete schoolwork.
The next event that will be held for SAAM is an opportunity for students, staff and faculty to create art in honor of sexual assault awareness month. The event will be held on Friday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Doudna 114 and the art will be displayed at the April 30 Silent Auction Fundraiser to benefit Family Advocates, Inc.
The fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon is partnering with the council for an additional event called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. The event was originally supposed to be held in April, but will now be held in the fall. Carson Doney, junior mechanical engineering major and vice president for chapter development for Sigma Phi Epsilon, said he is excited for the event and also for breaking stereotypes about fraternities by encouraging members to participate. This event typically features men wearing red high heels to raise awareness, but Doney said it will be “definitely not exclusively for males. [It will be] open to anybody and everybody.” Doney also said Sigma Phi Epsilon plans to be in contact with the Doyle Center to make sure the event is handled appropriately.
A Sexual Assault Support group is also available for students. The group is facilitated by Paula Schoenberg, the Sexual Assault Services Coordinator at Family Advocates, Inc. Schoenberg said that as of right now, there are three people participating in the group.
“The most important thing to know is that I am not a mandated reporter and that everything is confidential,” Schoenberg said. That means that if a student attends the group, not only does everything stay confidential but an investigation will not be started because of the student’s participation.
Dalsing said that Robin Gore, Assistant Director of Residence Life, was the “catalyst” for starting the support group. She said that Gore was aware of a lot of students looking for a support group, especially one with other students.
“When a student who has been victimized sees the university responding, I think that helps them feel safer in coming forward,” Dalsing said. “Our university has to work very hard at putting things in place that will increase trust and a sense of safety.”