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About 1 In 4 Of Female UW-Madison Students Say They’ve Been Sexually Assaulted

Survey Respondents Say In Most Cases Of Assault, Offender Had Been Drinking

Richard Hurd (CC-BY)

UW-Madison Dean of Student Lori Berquam, left, and UW-Madison Police Department Chief Susan Riesling chat with students prior to release of the survey. Shamane Mills/WPR

Nearly 28 percent of female undergraduates responding to a campus survey at University of Wisconsin-Madison say they’ve been sexually assaulted.

UW-Madison was one of 27 universities around the country that participated in the survey put together by the Association of American Universities. School officials say about 9,000 students, or about 22 percent of the school’s students, responded to it.

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The survey found that more than three-quarters of the women who reported being sexually assaulted said the offender had been drinking.

The results indicate that most students do not report assaults to school officials or police. UW-Madison’s police chief, Sue Riseling, said that 165 cases of suspected sexual assault were reported to school officials last year. Only 9 percent were reported to university police.

This year, about 136 reports of sexual assault were made to university. Only 4 percent of those followed up with police.

Riesling said there are various reasons for why the assaults aren’t reported: The events are often traumatic, and subsequent investigations and trials are a public, often lengthy, process.

“Sexual assault is the most underreported crime to all law enforcement agencies, whether you are state, municipal, city, university,” she said. “It’s a very common thing across our country that sexual assault survivors don’t feel comfortable coming forward.”

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said that when parents bring their children to college, one question on their mind is safety.

“We’ve done a lot,” she said. “But there’s clearly more work to be done. Sharing what we’ve learned from this survey helps us bring our entire campus community into the conversation.”

First-year students have to complete an online sexual assault prevention program. In addition, there are also student-led efforts against dating violence and stalking, and campus police recently launched a public awareness campaign aimed at potential perpetrators.