Sen. Tammy Baldwin and colleagues presented legislation on Wednesday that would mandate an appointed, independent campus sexual assault prevention advocate at every college and university receiving federal funding.
The Survivor Outreach and Support on Campus Act, or SOS Campus Act, would require each advocate to spearhead public information campaigns on sexual assault prevention and guarantee survivors on campus have access to medical care, legal assistance and emergency services.
“As Wisconsin students are back on campuses, I am working to ensure our universities are equipped to prevent sexual assault and support the brave survivors,” Baldwin said in a press release Wednesday. “Our legislation will make sure sexual assault survivors have access to the proper medical, mental health and legal services they need at our places of higher education.”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison currently offers a program similar to the SOS Campus Act. The program, Survivor Services, offers medical resources, emotional support and academic assistance for survivors of sexual assault, sexual harassment and relationship violence. Associate Professor Kate Walsh created the University Health Services program in 2020 with funds from a $500,000 federal grant.
“I applaud the University of Wisconsin for taking action to curb sexual assault and provide survivors support to move forward,” Baldwin told The Daily Cardinal in an email. “I am working to ensure that all universities across the state are better equipped to prevent sexual assault and the brave survivors have access to the proper medical, mental health and legal services they deserve and need.”
Sexual assault and violence on campus is still a widespread problem at UW. According to a 2019 Association of American Universities survey, more than one in four women attending UW-Madison is a survivor of unwanted sexual contact and approximately half of all students have experienced sexually harassing behavior. Over three-fourths of sexual assaults at UW-Madison involve alcohol consumption.
UW-Madison vice chancellor of student affairs Lori Reesor and former Chancellor Rebecca Blank acknowledged the statistics and reaffirmed the university’s commitment to creating a safe and secure environment in a blog post this April.
“When sexual assault occurs, we will respond swiftly and with compassion,” Blank and Reesor wrote. “We will depend on each of you to be part of the solution. It will take all of us to end sexual violence at UW.”
Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from Sen. Tammy Baldwin on UW-Madison's survivor services.