Panelists promoted open discussion of sexual assault and sex education at an event created by UW Homecoming Committee and We’re Better Than That.
Within the past semester, UW-Madison has had two high-profile sexual assault cases emerge on campus. In response to recent events and concerns from students, the UW Homecoming Committee hosted an educational panel Tuesday regarding sexual assault.
“It seems like kind of an unusual issue for an organization like homecoming to take on, but that’s really exactly why we wanted to do it,” UW Homecoming Committee President Rheann Engelke said. “It’s an issue that’s only going to change if absolutely every organization and every single person starts taking a stand on it.”
The committee partnered with We’re Better Than That, a student organization for men against sexual violence, to bring five experts on a variety of subjects related to sexual violence to Gordon Commons. Panelists included UW-Madison Title IX Coordinator David Blom, UHS and End Violence on Campus Representative Carmen Juniper Neimeko, Multicultural Student Center Director Gabe Javier, Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment Chair Cassidy Schroeder and Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards Tonya Schmidt.
The panelists covered topics from specific definitions of terms like “sexual assault” and “consent,” to the process of reporting assault should it occur, as well as statistics regarding sexual assault on campus.
According to Schmidt, in 2015 there were 214 reported cases of sexual assault. Responses to an Association of American Universities survey indicated that one in four UW-Madison women had been sexually assaulted. This year, there have been 274 reports of sexual assault so far.
In addition to educating students on resources available to people seeking information or support regarding sexual violence like PAVE and EVOC, the panel also encouraged students to start conversations about sex and sexual assault in order to change societal norms regarding sex and consent.
“The purpose of promoting consent-based frameworks is really to shift the norms away from sexual scripts of silence, [like] ‘get some,’ ‘that’s what makes you X gender,’ and into a world of mutual respect and accountability,” Juniper Neimeko said.
The panelists advocated being active allies within the community and empathizing with and supporting victim survivors.
“Saying that one is an ally is not enough. It has to be born out in actions,” Javier said.
Dean of Students Lori Berquam said the unity between UW Homecoming and WBTT in hosting the panel must continue throughout campus in order to address the issue of sexual violence.
“That is indicative of the partnerships that we need to continue to have to create this web together saying ‘this is not what we stand for on our campus, it’s not what we’re about, and we believe we are better than that,’” Berquam said.