Sexual assault response and prevention | Centering student needs: survivors of sexual violence

by Molly Caradonna, Psy.D., Director of Survivor Services, University Health Services

April Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) has ended, yet it is important to keep in focus the continued impact of sexual violence on our campus and to keep moving forward on the work still before us.

The 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault & Misconduct revealed that one in four UW–Madison undergraduate students will experience sexual violence before graduation and that graduate students experience concerning rates of sexual harassment, similar to rates at other institutions. While there has been considerable expansion of staff and resources dedicated to sexual violence prevention and response in the past decade, work remains to be done.

The Student Affairs strategic plan includes a core team dedicated to addressing sexual violence at a systemic level. I’m honored to work alongside Sam Bowen, Triston King, Joe Rasmussen, Caleb Williams, Rachael Willits, and our executive sponsor, Jake Baggott, on this initiative.

In regard to sexual violence prevention, our core team will be using the SPACE toolkit as our guiding framework. This innovative approach to prevention (developed from Columbia’s SHIFT study and publication “Sexual Citizens”) examines sexual geographies on campus that impact the prevalence of sexual violence.

Our work on sexual violence response will focus on improving cross-campus coordination to 1) increase knowledge about trauma-informed response and resources; 2) improve crisis supports for student survivors of sexual violence; and 3) address barriers to accessing support among historically marginalized communities on campus.

This summer, we expect to begin this collaborative work and explore what we can achieve with partners from Student Affairs and beyond, such as the Sexual Misconduct Resource & Response Program, the RCC Sexual Violence Resource Center, Dane Multi Agency Center, and Associated Students of Madison.

If you weren’t able to participate in this year’s SAAM activities, please consider checking out the virtual version of the Reflect Exhibit, part of the Reclaiming Campus series sponsored by UHS Survivor Services and Violence Prevention. Reflect on how far we’ve come and what yet remains to create a campus free from sexual violence.

If a student has experienced sexual violence and confides in you for support, please reach out to UHS Survivor Services for information about advocacy, mental health, and medical services available to students on-campus