Students save time to ‘take back the night’

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April 16, 2014

By Allyson Karnowski

 

One in four college women have been victims of sexual assault or an attempted assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Several events throughout April will represent Sexual Assault Awareness Month at UW-Whitewater and across the country. Sponsored by the University Health and Counseling Services, the UW-W Police Services and the student organization SaVE, events are being held to raise awareness, collect donations and support victims.

Although the national number of sexual assaults has decreased by 50 percent since the early ’90s, sexual assaults on college campuses are still a significant issue.

Sexual Assault Awareness began in the late ’70s in England with an all-female Take Back the Night campaign. Women walked the streets to honor victims of sexual assault and gain unity among others as they spread awareness. UW-W had its own Take Back the Night event on April 8, with personal stories, resources and a candlelit walk.

Schouten

Schouten

Many events focus on the importance of self-defense and personal awareness of women. One such event is the “Survival Mindset” workshop sponsered by UW-W Police Services on April 3.

Lt. Faye Schouten, who has 20 years of police experience at UW-W  said it’s also about a shift in education toward the perpetrators.

“We need to realize that the rape culture is a huge thing,” Schouten said. “If people intervened, we can start seeing changes in sexual assault.”

“Rape culture” is the connection between sexual assaults and the atmosphere of a society collectively making sexual violence normalized or even excusable. Examples of rape culture include blaming rape victims for being too sexy, joking about rape or violence, music lyrics demeaning women or believing only women are assaulted.

Rather than working on one side of the sexual assaults with the victim’s safety, education should be geared to preventing rapists from raping, thus changing the rape culture, Schouten said.

One way to shift these ideas is involving men in events. The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event at 5 p.m. on April 22 in Hyland 1000 is geared specifically toward men. They will attempt to walk a mile in heels, not only to prove they are able, but also to raise awareness of gender violence, rape and sexual assault.

“The event is a fun event, but at the same time it is dealing with a very serious topic,” UHCS intern Whitney Eisenreich said.

Eisenreich helped orchestrate the walk and believes this annual event will have a great turnout. She also is involved in the student organization SaVE – Supporting a Violence-free Environment – working to make the campus and community a safer place through active presentations.

“Our presentations focus a lot on bringing in the bystander in a dangerous situation and how you can help prevent a crime from occurring,” Eisenreich said.

Intervening in a dangerous situation can be nerve-wracking, but Schouten understands this also can be lifesaving. If someone is a victim or bystander of sexual assault, students can report a crime to any faculty or staff on campus. The reports may be submitted anonymously before the staff or dean of students.

Schouten is not only trained to deal with sexual assaults, but is president of the board of directors for Wisconsin’s Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She said many times, students are afraid to call the police on behalf of a friend or themselves if they have been drinking, but assures students “we need people to call.”

The UW-W Police Services gives “medical amnesty,” to students. If someone is involved in a dangerous situation, yet is drinking underage, he or she will not receive a citation by reporting the situation to the police. The Police Services also will send an officer to meet any victim of a sexual assault where they are located.

The campus police will participate in Denim Days on April 23 for victims around the world. Officers will wear jeans for the day to symbolize their support.

Denim Days originated from an Italian case that ruled a woman had not been raped because her jeans were declared too tight to be removed by another person. Nationwide, people will wear, hang or decorate denim in honor of sexual assault victims.

UW-W will collect jeans in collection boxes at Goodhue, UHCS and residence halls for survivors in need. Old cell phones and chargers also can be dropped off in Goodhue for domestic violence victims to be used as an emergency connection.

“Almost everyone knows someone who is a survivor of sexual assault,” Eisenreich said. She said she hopes the event “can help spread awareness of the issue and help put a stop to it.”