University of Wisconsin - Madison's initiative to combat sexual violence on campus

A guest post from Carmen Hotvedt, University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Project Director of the United States Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women Grant to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Stalking on Campus that discusses the collaborative approach to ending violence at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  EVOC (pronounced e-voke) is the initiative to enhance efforts to address sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking through coordinated training, education, and social change efforts.

Launched after UW-Madison was awarded a US Dept. of Justice Office on Violence Against Women grant to address sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking on college campuses, the EVOC (End Violence on Campus) initiative unites campus and community partners to create a safer campus.
Eighteen partners signed on to the funding agreement, including local and university police departments, victim service providers, the Chancellor and Provost, both state coalitions, Athletics, Housing, and the District Attorney’s office.  All EVOC partners are committed to enhancing prevention education, providing quality professional development for staff and faculty, and increasing student access to victim services.   Though the campus has had a long history of working collaboratively with community based victim service agencies to respond to sexual assault, the funding provided additional support for programming, staff, and professional consultation to develop a more coordinated front.
One EVOC partner, University Health Services, manages a comprehensive online violence prevention program for all first year students, using brief presentations, materials distribution, online education, and interactive peer-led programming.  Staff are currently working to develop strategies to ensure that every incoming first year student participates in these efforts as they enroll at UW-Madison. In the words of one first year student, “This program successfully brings needed attention to the problem of sexual assault, which is usually overlooked as a major issue at colleges and universities.”
While we do much work to help students have healthy, respectful relationships, faculty and staff also contribute to the campus climate.  Ongoing training on responding to victim disclosure as well as specialized training for law enforcement and judicial affairs officers have been strengthened and/or implemented since the EVOC initiative began.
In order to ensure that campus efforts not only adhered to research-based practice but also campus need, many EVOC partners participated in a needs assessment over the past year to alleviate barriers to victims getting help.  Conducting a comprehensive needs assessment is a lengthy process, but allowed our partners to get a 360 degree view of services, needs, and areas for growth. Results were presented to EVOC partners, who were then asked, as a community, to identify the key areas that they would commit to addressing in the next 3-5 years.
As we will continue to meet the minimum standards of our funding and provide services to meet our campus needs, we will specifically do them through the following lenses:
Alcohol: address the role alcohol plays in preventing people from getting help
Social Norms: address the victim blaming attitudes and behaviors that violence seem legitimate or accepted
Education: make prevention education and victim services accessible to all
Navigating the University: make the matrix of services available and more accessible.
If you would like more information about the UW-Madison EVOC initiative or our campus needs assessment, please contact us at violenceprevention@uhs.wisc.edu