University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

NEWS RELEASE

News Bureau . Schofield Hall 201 . Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
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UW-Eau Claire Creates Center
For Awareness of Sexual Assault

 MAILED:  Sept. 25, 2003

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has stepped up its efforts to provide education and services relating to sexual assault issues.

The university has created the Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault, which will coordinate efforts aimed at prevention and provide services to students who are sexual assault survivors.

“UW-Eau Claire — like all college campuses — has to be concerned about sexual assault issues,” said Susan Turell, Women’s Studies coordinator and associate professor of psychology. “National data indicate that college students are at a higher risk of being raped or sexually coerced, most often by someone they know. As a campus and as a community, we’ve decided to do something about it.”

CASA brings together the efforts of numerous campus and community programs aimed at preventing sexual assault, reducing the risks of being sexually assaulted and providing support to survivors of sexual assault, said Turell, director of CASA.

“Many departments and organizations were doing a lot of things relating to sexual assault issues,” Turell said. “But there was little coordination of those efforts so it was more difficult to get information to students about where to go for help or support, and students often were unsure what was available.”

CASA members — consisting of people from a variety of campus departments, such as Housing and Residence Life, Counseling Services, Health Services, Women’s Studies and University Police — spent nearly a year reviewing programs and services on campus and in the community that were related to sexual assault issues, Turell said. Representatives from community organizations also were included in those meetings, she said.

“We discovered that while what is offered is good, there were gaps — we were providing services but it wasn’t enough,” Turell said, noting they also found that students were rarely using support services offered in the community.

The Family Support Center in Chippewa Falls, an agency that provides sexual assault and domestic abuse services, received funds from the Victims of Crime Act to hire a sexual assault services staff person for UW-Eau Claire’s Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault. The staff person will have an office on the UW-Eau Claire campus but will work for the agency.

“We know that sexual assaults happen on all college campuses,” said Geri Segal, executive director of the Family Support Center. “We’re glad to help fill the gaps in services to better meet the needs of UW-Eau Claire students. Our office is in Chippewa Falls so it’s difficult for students to get to us. Having a person for students to contact on campus is very important.”

CASA’s leaders will organize a team of volunteers to provide 24-hour crisis intervention services for sexual assault victims, Turell said, noting the team of volunteers will likely be composed of students. The crisis intervention program will be particularly valuable to students who may be uncomfortable contacting law enforcement officials immediately after an assault, she said.

“The reality is that students are at a greater risk of being raped by someone they know,” Turell said. “In those circumstances, they’re not as likely to report it. So they need some place to go for help that’s not attached to law enforcement. CASA will work with law enforcement and hope these new services will increase reporting. However, we want all people to have services given the reality of non-reporting.”

Crisis intervention volunteers will help educate victims/survivors of sexual assaults as they decide whether to report the assault to law enforcement officials, Turell said. For example, a student might decide to be examined by a sexual assault nurse examiner so evidence can be collected in case the student decides to contact authorities several days after the assault. Volunteers also can help the student sort through the pros and cons of seeking medical attention after an assault, she said.

“Our goal is to get students good information immediately so they can make their own decisions,” Turell said. “While we would like to see an increase in the number of sexual assaults that are reported, our primary goal is to get students the information and support they need to make informed decisions regarding their recovery from this traumatic experience.”

Other services to be provided by CASA include individual counseling, drop-in support groups, training for first-responders such as residence hall assistants, and follow up with students who had issues relating to a sexual assault.

In addition, CASA will coordinate education programs relating to prevention and risk reduction. For example, this fall CASA sponsored a program that brought several hundred new freshmen to Zorn Arena to participate in a sexual assault awareness/prevention workshop, which was led by nationally known experts on sexual assault issues.

“The concept of the Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault has grown out of work that people across the UW-Eau Claire campus and the greater Eau Claire community has been engaged in for many years,” Turell said. “CASA will help facilitate collaboration among current efforts and coordinate any additional programming and services to be offered.”

“Our new Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault is one of nearly 30 centers and clinics on campus that are open to the public and engage our students, under faculty supervision, in addressing important societal issues and/or providing community clients with cost effective services,” Provost Ron Satz said.

For more information about CASA, contact Turell at (715) 836-5718 or turellsc@uwec.edu.

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: September 25, 2003