Project overview

In the 1980s, researchers uncovered disturbingly high levels of acquaintance rape on campuses nationwide.

More than two decades later, how effectively have UW campuses tackled the problem?

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism produced the reports here with support and collaboration from the Center for Public Integrity, and published them simultaneously with other reports on campus assaults from colleagues in the Investigative News Network. The work was supported by a grant from the McCormick Foundation in Chicago.

The Wisconsin Center also collaborates with its partners, Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and the UW-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication; and other news media.

The Center’s coverage was reported and written by Kate Golden, a Madison-based freelance journalist; and Alex Morrell and Sara Jerving, Center reporters. Kryssy Pease, the Center’s data analyst, and Morrell produced the searchable database. The project was edited by Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director, with assistance from David Stoeffler, a newspaper consultant, and Jacob Kushner, a Center reporter who fact-checked the coverage. The Web site was produced by Golden, with assistance from Morrell and Hall.

Suffering in silence: Campus sexual assaults underreported
At University of Wisconsin System campuses, estimated rapes outnumber reports by a margin of 17-1. That means nearly all rapists go unpunished, whether by schools or the criminal justice system. Victims tell us how tough the system is on them, and why they don’t want to report.

As a result of our reporting, on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the UW System acknowledged its annual summary of sexual assaults — required by the Legislature, and relatively rare among states — should be more accessible and posted it on a new Web page.

Data draw murky picture of sexual assaults on Wisconsin campuses

No one contests that campus sexual assaults are underreported. But even nailing down how many are reported at a campus is a challenge. At UW-Madison in 2008, either one, five, eight or 44 sexual assaults occurred — depending on which report you consult.

How will recent changes affect rapists and rape victims?

In a controversial move, the University of Wisconsin System last fall revised its campus conduct code. Some experts say the changes could make it easier to punish rapists, while others worry that one change could intimidate victims.

Teaching students to intervene in acquaintance rape

Rape whistles are out, and there’s evidence some campuses are tailoring prevention programs to the most recent research on college rapes. Given the vast underreporting, it may seem like there are countless rapists out there. In reality, a small minority of men—undetected serial rapists—perpetrate many of the crimes. New “bystander intervention” programs aim to teach students to identify and prevent predatory behavior.

Resources: Where to go for help at UW

Health care, law enforcement, the university. These systems are complex. WCIJ compiled a list of where to go when you or someone you know is sexually assaulted and what these agencies can offer you, including a list of resources for each UW campus.♦


University officials respond to Center’s investigation

• Feb. 23, 2010: The UW System posted sexual assault reports online that had been available before only by public records request.
• Feb. 25, 2010: UW-Madison’s Dean of Students responded in a press release

Buzz about this project, and where our stories appear

The Center gives away its work to other news outlets — that’s the whole idea of its nonprofit investigative journalism model. Here’s our running list of news sites that have run versions of our stories on UW sexual assaults:

Wausau Daily Herald
Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
— Appleton Post-Crescent
Stevens Point Journal
— Janesville Gazette
—  Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
—  Green Bay Press-Gazette
— WCLO-AM 1730 in Janesville and Beloit
— Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa
Marshfield News Herald
Fond du Lac Reporter
Oshkosh Northwestern
— The Badger Herald, a UW-Madison student daily paper

Also, some pre-publishing buzz: The Capital Times’ Higher Ed reporter Todd Finkelmeyer wrote this piece on Feb. 27 about UW-Madison’s pre-emptive response to our reporting.

And statewide public radio: On Monday, March 1, Wisconsin Public Radio — a partner of the Center — ran a story by reporter Gil Halsted on the Center’s findings (read below or listen to the RealAudio story). Continue reading