Prevention and collaboration at University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Madison, WI – In 2008, the University of Wisconsin at Madison was awarded the Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic/Dating Violence & Stalking Campus Grant by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).  Housed at the University Health Services, the OVW Campus Grant is led by Carmen Hotvedt, Project Director and Shira Phelps, Project Coordinator.  Their passion, commitment and thoughtfulness is demonstrated not only in their collaborative and community-driven approach toward ending sexual violence on campus, but ultimately the relationships they have cultivated over time with campus and community stakeholders.

One unique characteristic that makes the University of Wisconsin at Madison different from other campuses funded to end sexual violence, is that the institution does not have any mandatory requirements for enrolled students.  No requirements for a public state institution seems atypical to someone that attended a large public research institution that constantly redefines the limits of bureaucracy.  However, the notion of shared governance where staff, faculty and students participate in the decision-making process relating to operations of the institution traces its origins to the participatory ideology embraced by the UW Madison communities of the 1960’s.

Working in UW Madison’s democratic climate presents opportunities and challenges that students, staff, faculty and community partners have embraced.  One such measure is Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), a student organization that works to end prevent sexual and dating violence through education and activism.  During the site visit, I sat in on an evening class offered by the School of Social Work called PAVE Peer Education where students engage in peer-to-peer education to gain knowledge around sexual assault, dating violence and stalking as well how to facilitate conversations regarding sexual violence.

UW Madison is one of the many campuses that have taken steps to institutionalize a community response to end sexual violence by using a multi-faceted approach that actively involves students, staff and faculty.  I left Madison excited to hear about future campus collaborations as they continue to raise awareness, promote activism and provide inclusive and culturally relevant survivor-centered services and resources.

Livia Rojas, MSSW, is the Training and Resource Coordinator in the Campus Program at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) where she provides training and technical assistance to recipients of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Grant to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking on college and university campuses across the United States and territories. Livia has eleven years of working to advance human rights and student organizing through practice and research.

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  • Carmen Hotvedt October 8, 2010, 4:59 AM


    So great to welcome you to our campus! I should clarify-the “M” word–mandatory things exist here. Students have to pay tuition and meet degree requirements to graduate. 🙂 I do feel fortunate to have a state law for UW schools that requires sexual assault education, and hope we see an expansion of that law to include stalking and dating violence in future years. We’re also proud of the collaborative work University Health Services and the UW Police Department have done in the past few years to educate students at SOAR, the orientation program organized by the Center for the First Year Experience, an office in the Division of Student Life.

    For other readers:
    Highlights from Livia’s visit that she didn’t disclose include a walking tour of campus I took her and Katherine from the DOJ on. By walking tour, I mean I took us on the longest route possible to get to the police station, which included backtracking and a hop through some brush! But then, as the visit was coming to a close, Shira and I introduced Livia to deep fried cheese curds, so I hope I redeemed myself!