UW-La Crosse staffers encourage parents to talk with students about Oktoberfest safety

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Nationally, more than 50% of sexual assaults occur in the first few months of college. As Oktoberfest arrives during that time period, some UW-La Crosse staffers have advice for parents on how to help keep their college students safe.

The university provides online training for students beforehand, but it also provides advocacy for those students who need it, said Blythe McConaughey, UWL’s violence prevention specialist.

“Certainly, it doesn’t help that we have an enormous party in October, as much fun as it is. I think there are lots of things to talk about in terms of staying safe,” McConaughey said. “Parents need to talk to their college-age children about being a good bystander. If you see something, say something… if you can be safe while doing it.”

Lisa Weston, the university’s assistant director of residence life, understands the pressures students may feel to have fun and fit in.

“There are a lot of opportunities to have fun. I would say parents should talk to their students about having fun within the context of being reasonable and safe, and staying with people that they trust,” Weston said.

Sgt. Paul Iverson of the UWL campus police wants students to be aware of the risks that come from consuming too much alcohol and to monitor their, and others’, behavior.

“Stay within their groups and watch out for each other. That’s the biggest thing I can give them in terms of advice,” Iverson said.

Weston also said that students should trust their comfort levels.

“Everyone wants friends, and everyone wants to have that group of people they belong to. But that shouldn’t be at the cost of being uncomfortable, unsafe and unhealthy,” Weston said.

The blue lights on campus also serve as a symbol of safety.

“If something is happening, if they have a question, if they need some support, if they need a ride, if they need anything,” McConaughey said. “They can go to the blue light, pick up the phone and be connected immediately to a dispatcher.”

UWL is not allowing its on-campus students to have guests over Oktoberfest weekend and is offering plenty of opportunities on campus for students who prefer to keep out of the weekend’s crowds.

Viterbo University also told News 8 Now that it will have an increased security presence and residence life staff during Oktoberfest, which will be Thursday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Oct. 3.

If you’re a parent of, or are a UWL student, residence life offers resources online, including violence prevention and counseling and testing services.

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