April and advocacy

UW-W celebrates Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

Shannan Lojeski, News Editor

A campus-wide email sent on April 11 notified students, faculty and staff of details of sexual assault that was reported to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on April 9.

The individuals involved and an unknown acquaintance met at a party off campus Friday, April 9 and returned to the area of the Wells East Residence Hall, where the assault took place.

This is not the first case of sexual assault at UW-W this semester, and according to University Health and Counseling Center (UHCS) Wellness Educator Hannah Foley, the rape culture shown at UW-W has become ingrained into our everyday lives.

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), UW-W is hosting a number of events throughout the month of April to recognize this culture and allow students, staff and faculty to come together to support one another.

“For UW-W, SAAM is an opportunity for the campus and community to first of all, have progressive programming available for all those interested to attend, but also serves the purpose of actively discussing uncomfortable topics,” said Foley. “Rape culture, violence and advocacy are uncomfortable topics, but that is the point. If we continue to remain silent, nothing will change.”

Throughout April, UHCS is hosting events such as “Let’s Taco ‘Bout Sex(ual) Consent”, an interactive student workshop that was held Friday, April 5 in the University Center room 275. At the event, roughly 35 students enjoyed a free taco bar and participated in a session that gave tips on how to build advocacy skills, challenge myths and prevent assault.

UHCS Wellness Coordinator Erica Fischer encourages students, staff and community members to attend at least one event during SAAM.

“If every student and staff shared one thing that they learned at an event with one additional person, we can double our impact. Peer to peer education is so powerful. Your voice is your power. Every individual can be an agent of change,” said Fischer.

Aside from SAAM, many students at UW-W are actively involved in work that advocates against sexual assault including junior Stephanie Mepham. Mepham is currently an intern at People Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse of Jefferson (PADA), a non-profit organization that provides services and options for clients through counseling, support and linkage to area resources like the Community Action Coalition.

“Our UW-W interns are so appreciated. They help us better provide our services. They can help with the initial contact with clients, outreach into the community, and even assist with providing services to clients. We have been fortunate enough to have two interns per semester for the last two semesters,” said Lisa Berndsen, executive director for PADA.

Advocating against sexual assault doesn’t stop after the month of April is over. Fischer reminds students that staff and students can get involved with organization like PADA that are located on campus including Coalition Against Sexual & Interpersonal Violence (CASIV) or staff/student committees like the Sexual Assault Prevention Advisory Committee (SAPA).

“Although we recognize sexual assault awareness month in April, many campus departments and student orgs work to prevent sexual assault year round,” Fischer said.

UHCS promotes use of the free counseling services on campus for students and the healing support group for survivors of sexual assault. For questions and appointment, UHCS can be contacted at 262-472-1305.

Anyone with information related to the alleged sexual assault that occurred on April 5 is encouraged to contact UW-W Police at 262-472-1533.