LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, reports of sexual assault nearly doubled from last year.
About one in four college women report some type of sexual violence during their time in school. For men, it’s about one in 12.
But only about 20 percent on those incidents get reported.
That's why UW-La Crosse is hoping to raise awareness through their fourth annual Ultimate Race for Sexual Assault Awareness.
Ingrid Peterson is the school's violence prevention specialist, which includes dealing with issues such as sexual assault.
"I'm required to submit a report to the UW System every year -- all the campuses do," Peterson said.
In the last year, there's been a change in the number of sexual assault cases reported to the school.
"Last year, we reported 58 sexual assaults to them, which was a huge jump from the year before, when we had 32,” Peterson said.
But she says that number is actually a good sign.
"We know the number of assaults has probably remained the same for a long time, and what's happening are students are becoming more educated, they're more correctly identifying what is a sexual assault, they know something could be done about it,” Peterson said.
That's where events like the Ultimate Race for Sexual Assault Awareness, a scavenger-like competition which teaches students about resources available for victims on campus, play a role.
"I think knowing that we have these great resources like here at UW-L that definitely help, because I couldn't imagine without these resources how students would know how to get help,” said Mallory Gehrmann a public-health intern at UW-La Crosse.
Peterson said the school also works with ‘Peer Health Edcuators,’ undergraduate students who are majoring in subjects such as public health, who talk with other students about healthy choices.
"We try to turn the conversations towards healthy sexuality, health relationships. How do we know when we are in a healthy relationship?” Peterson said.
The goal of these programs aims is to make sure students feel comfortable talking about the difficult subject.
"I think students are becoming more comfortable because we are here to help them find resources on this issue,” Gehrmann said.
The Ultimate Race for Sexual Assault Awareness takes place April 20.
Before students arrive for the fall semester, they are required to take short online course on sexual assault.
During move-in week, students then watch a presentation by UW-L students about how to spot and identify sexual assault.
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