Its On Us campaign encourages safe campuses, UW-Eau Claire on board

Bystander intervention program in the works for campus

Its On Us campaign encourages safe campuses, UW-Eau Claire on board

Photo by Ted Roduner

From 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to 105 Garfield Ave., our nation’s president started a discussion to end sexual assault at universities nationwide, including here on Wisconsin’s Most Beautiful Campus.

Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama has launched his “It’s On Us” movement, a campaign that encourages college campuses to combat against sexual assault. The main focus of the movement is remembering this solution begins and ends with the entire university community.

UW-Eau Claire Dean of Students Joseph Abhold developed “You Matter” at UW-Oshkosh, where he previously worked. The “You Matter” campaign was a bystander intervention program, which aimed to inform students that what they do matters and can make a difference. Abhold said he now hopes to put forth a similar plan into action at Eau Claire and is glad to see the White House pushing campus safety with the “It’s on Us” movement.

“The White House’s attention to sexual assault is something I really welcome.,” Abhold said. “I’m deeply concerned about sexual assault on college campuses, and its an epidemic to me that is completely unacceptable. I’m glad the White House is bringing this kind of attention to the matter and bringing resources to campuses.”

University Police Chief David Sprick said while the university police force currently does not have plans to change the campus safety protocol because of the “It’s on Us” movement, it plans to continue to keep the university and students safe.

“I’m deeply concerned about sexual assault on college campuses, and its an epidemic to me that is completely unacceptable.

— UW-Eau Claire Dean of Students Joseph Abhold

Sprick said he keeps his team fully briefed on any potential assault on campus on a weekly basis, while also getting updates from the Eau Claire community.

“I think there is a lot of effort the university community has been putting forth for sexual assaults and how to respond to sexual assault,” Sprick said.

From July 1, 2008, to June 31, 2013, there have been zero reported 1st degree or 3rd degree sexual assault cases, according to the campus crime statistics from the University Police Department.

From 2008 to 2013 there were a total of eight 4th degree cases reported. Fourteen cases were reported, but after investigation it was determined there was not a sufficient amount of evidence, according to those same statistics.

“Sexual assault is an unreported crime,” Sprick said. “We don’t want to blame victims of sexual assault by saying, ‘oh you shouldn’t have worn that’ or ‘you shouldn’t have drank that much.’”

There have not been any cases of sexual assault reported to the University Police Department yet during this school year, Sprick said.

“It’s on Us” is a bystander intervention program focused on sexual assault, but Abhold said he hopes to use it in many situations.

This week Abhold has a meeting to start developing a plan for the university involving the bystander effect in all fields.  

Associate Student Service Coordinator Chris Jorgenson made a bystander intervention plan for sexual assault, Abhold said.

While the plan is still in the works, the committee is prepared to look at Jorgenson’s bystander branding, and create a cohesive plan.  

“The bystander intervention program is a really flexible tool that can be used in different situations,” Abhold said. “The White House is talking about it with sexual assault, but you can also use it for alcohol.”

The main focus with reporting sexual assault is not blaming the victim, but helping the victim in any way possible, Sprick said.

Even though no cases of sexual assault have been reported this school year, and there are low numbers of reported cases in past years, Sprick said the University Police and dean of students office know it is still, occurring on campus.

“Sexual assault is a crime committed by opportunistic rapists, criminals,” Abhold said. “If someone is a victim of sexual assault I want them to know there are tons of resources on campus.”