A new bill was passed unanimously by the State Assembly on Feb. 9 stating that if sexual assault survivors participated in underage drinking during the incident, they cannot be cited. The university has shown support and is backing the bill that will next go to the state Senate.
State Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, and Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, introduced the bill in an effort to increase reporting of sexual assault incidents on university campuses around Wisconsin.
There are several factors that affect a sexual assault victim’s decision to report the incident, one of them is being under the influence of alcohol. The bill states that sexual assault victims, and others who report such crimes, cannot be cited or have any ramifications for underage drinking if the assault occurred when the underage victim was drinking.
The Women’s Resource Center is an on campus, student-run organization dedicated to raising awareness and breaking the barriers around sex and gender issues while celebrating inclusivity, diversity and promoting equality.
“Our organization’s initial reaction was a happy one. It is a good reform of the bill and we are in support of it. We hope it will allow UWSP students and the survivors of assault to get them thinking about assault on campus more and to continue the discussion,” Lauren Jenquin, executive coordinator and junior arts management major, said.
“This is a step in the right direction and we also hope that this will lead to more realistic reporting statistics in the long run,” Lyn Ciurro, programming liaison, added.
The bill is intended to diminish the hurdles involved with reporting an incident and to decrease fear of ramifications when reporting. It can also decrease the stigma around sexual assault and drinking, confirming that drinking does not equal consent.
The Promoting Awareness/Victim Empowerment organization at UWSP’s mission is to ensure that survivors have a resource to go to after the experience and to empower survivors.
“From a student, survivor and campus perspective the bill is inspiring because the state legislators are taking sexual assault seriously and giving the issue the acknowledgement it deserves. The bill is also survivor centered and could help in the healing process. Survivors will get the validation they need from officials that even though they were drinking it was not their fault,” executive director Katie Menard said.
However, while the bill is finally taking a stand against this issue the long term effects are unknown. All are hopeful that this bill will help college campuses become safer.
“Getting rid of the penalty does not necessarily mean it will decrease the occurrences of sexual assault. I feel like the bill won’t prevent the incidents,” Cait Fleischman, senior botany major, said.
Survivors can get the help they need regarding excessive drinking and sexual assault incidents from campus resources including the Women’s Resource Center, Delzel Counseling Center and the Promoting Awareness/Victim Empowerment organization on campus.