Sexual assault sparks conversation

Report of sexual violence reminds students of safety resources

Shannan Lojeski, News Editor

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Only 20 percent of all sexual assaults are caused by a stranger.

A campus wide email was sent Jan. 28 detailing the report of a sexual assault that occurred Jan. 25 between a student and a stranger. The student was followed from the Williams Center off campus to the area of Harmony Lane, Whitewater.

While there is no progress made on identifying a suspect, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Police Department remains on alert for any new information that becomes available.

“Right now when we look at the reported incident, what we can offer at this point is that we have seen nothing further of this type. We believe this is likely an isolated incident,” said UW-W Police Department Chief Matthew Kiederlen. “Our role, as I see it as Chief, is not to ensure a criminal prosecution but to ensure that any survivor is afforded the greatest opportunity to become whole again. And if that means referral to counseling, if that means utilizing internal disciplinary measures in lieu of the criminal justice system that’s what we want to afford to those individuals.”

Although the incident occurred off campus, Director of Recreation Sports & Facilities Gary Harms takes the situation very seriously.

“This is a very concerning incident and the safety of our students is of utmost importance at both the Williams Center and the UW-Whitewater campus,” said Harms. “Although this incident did not take place inside the Williams Center, we have and will continue to evaluate and improve our safety measures. This includes the installation of security cameras, the improvement of both inside and outside building lighting, and any other possible safety measures in coordination with UW-Whitewater Police. Students need to feel safe in both our athletic/recreational facilities, as well as the campus as a whole.”

As the number of sexual assaults at UW-W continues to rise, University Health & Counseling Services (UHCS) finds more students seeking out counseling on coping mechanisms with past assault experiences and fears of future cases.

“We provide services to students who have experienced various forms of sexual violence and interpersonal violence at least two to three times a week, if not more” said UHCS Psychology & Training Director Theresa DeWalt.

DeWalt explained that there are many great things happening at UW-W to keep students safe including the student organization, Coalition Against Sexual & Interpersonal Violence (CASIV) and It’s On Us campaign initiated by the Whitewater Student Government (WSG). Both projects work to bring awareness, educate, and support campus through student involvement.

DeWalt stresses the importance of this type of student participation on campus to stand up against sexual assault through preventive action.

“The best way for students to increase their safety is to help engage in the campus and cultural changes that need to occur for sexual violence to become a thing of the past,” said DeWalt. “This may include joining an organization that works toward the prevention of sexual violence, intervening in a safe way when sexist statements are made or if you witness someone in an unsafe situation and choosing to treat others with respect.”

For those who may be fearful due to this incident, Kiederlen encourages students to reach out to the UW-W Police Department to cooperatively form a personal safety plan. If any individual is ever feeling unsafe, Kiederlen has personally offered his direct line (262)-472-4681 for reference.

Any individual who has any information regarding this incident can contact the UW-W Police Department via email at [email protected] or by phone at (262)-472-4660.