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President says universities can do more to stop sexual assault

By Mark McPherson, mmcpherson@wkbt.com
Published On: Apr 29 2014 08:11:34 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 29 2014 11:17:28 PM CDT

Universities can do more to prevent sexual assault on campus, according to the Obama Administration.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

Universities can do more to prevent sexual assault on campus. That's according to the Obama Administration, which released several recommendations for what colleges and universities should do to better handle assault.

The recommendations talk about how campuses should handle sexual assault.  It included things like having a confidential victims advocate and conduct surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assaults.

UW-La Crosse says some of those recommendations are already in place on campus. They say they work to not only handle assault cases, but prevent them in the first place.

Vice President Joe Biden delivered the White House's message about sexual assault on campus, and it was clear, universities need to stop turning a blind eye.  Rape is rape, don't look away," said the Vice President, "One in five of everyone of those young women who is dropped off that first day of school, before they finish school will be assaulted in their college years."

UW-L's Ingrid Peterson is already doing the job recommended by the White House, she is a confidential victims advocate, helping people who have been assaulted. "UW-L has supported this position for more than 7 years now of having somebody in that role," said Peterson, "and in that time we saw the number of reports increase from less than 10 a year to about 30 a year."

Unfortuntely, says Peterson, a recent study shows those 30 are just the tip if the iceberg. "35 out of every thousand college women in that study reported being the victim of an attempted or completed assault, during just one academic year, when they were doing the study," said Peterson, "That means we cold have a couple hundred of our female students here at UW-L every year probably experiencing some kind of sexual violence while they're here at college."

Peterson's job is to help answer victims question about reporting an assault to police, to the university, even deciding if they want to report it at all.

UW-L's message of prevention starts at freshman orientation.  Peterson says one important way to tackle this problem is to redefine the definition of sexual assault. "So often it happens between people who know each other, are hanging out together, or maybe having a drink together, and victims in particular have that same mindset and think I can't report this because it was partly my fault, and we need to really start moving beyond that," said Peterson.

Another recommendation is to set up a program to help victims through the legal process. Peterson says the process can be extremely complicated, they've seen some cases take up to 2 years to complete.

The University says the vast majority of assaults occur off campus, at things like house parties, and a large number of victims are in their first six weeks of college life.

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