Chancellor Blank: Reported sexual assault numbers at UW-Madison are ‘distressingly high’

The chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Madison is calling attention to a new national report showing that more than a fourth of female undergraduate students reported being sexually assaulted in 2019.

“Our numbers remain distressingly high – and even a single incidence of sexual assault is too many,” UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement.

Results from the 2019 American Association of Universities survey on sexual assault and misconduct show in 2019, 26.1 percent of female undergraduate students at UW-Madison reported having experienced some form of sexual assault. Eleven percent reported experiencing assault by penetration.

Currently, 87 percent of all sexual assaults go unreported, according to Blank’s statement.

“To those students from communities that are disproportionately affected, including LGBTQ+ students and students with disabilities, I want to let you know that we hear you and are committed to supporting you,” Blank wrote.

The data shows of the reported assaults on women, 60 percent happened on campus and 40 percent happened off campus. The most common location of those assaults was non-university residential housing at 27 percent, followed by university residence halls at 18 percent and fraternity houses at 17 percent.

The results from the same survey in 2015 led the university to hire additional staff in the Title IX Office and University Health Services mandatory prevention training for staff and students and in-person mandatory education for students, according to the chancellor.

Blank said university officials will use the survey results from this year to refine campus policies and programs. She said it is “encouraging” to see that when comparing the 2015 results to the 2019 survey, both undergraduate and graduate students report significantly higher levels of knowledge about sexual assault and campus resources.

Lori Reesor, vice chancellor for student affairs at UW-Madison, said the university plans to add staff members to the Title IX program and University Health Services. The university is also looking into joining the NASPA Culture of Respect program, which will help university leaders learn from other campuses.

“We just know we have to do better as a society. This is beyond UW. It’s at every campus, but it’s also an issue in our society, as well,” Reesor said.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to attend forums to provide feedback on ways to decrease the numbers of sexual assaults:

1. Undergraduate student results: Nov. 5 from 4:30-6 p.m. in the Overture Room of the Gordon Dining and Event Center.

2. Graduate and Professional student results: Nov. 7 from 4:30-6 p.m. in the Orchard View Room of the Discovery Building.

3. Underrepresented student results: Nov. 19 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Concerto Room of the Gordon Dining and Event Center.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.