UWO works to prevent sexual assaults


Kyra Slakes and Cory Sparks, Photo Editor and Former Editor-in-Chief

As the fall 2022 semester begins, UW Oshkosh is taking steps to educate and protect students from sexual assault during a time period where students are most at risk. 

As classes begin and campus life begins to ramp up at many campuses across the country, so do off-campus parties and events. While most of the time these events are harmless, they have the potential to take a negative turn as a disproportionate number of sexual assaults occur during the first six weeks of the school year, which is called the Red Zone. 

UWO Police Department Acting Chief of Police Chris Tarmann noted the importance of understanding what sexual assault is before utilizing prevention methods. He said  Wisconsin strictly tied the word assault with situations regarding rape and other nonconsensual sexual activity. 

“It’s somebody who touches somebody or intrudes on somebody else’s body without their consent, but in Wisconsin law, there are several levels of sexual assault,” Tarmann said. “In Wisconsin, if somebody punches somebody else and sexual nature and rape aren’t involved, that’s battery.”

He said one thing needs to be clearly understood: consent must be freely given. Otherwise, an instance of sexual assault has occurred.

The UWO Police Department has a plan to keep students safe, including increased police presence in areas that are considered vulnerable. 

With the Oshkosh area averaging one sex offender per 219 people, according to an article by The Advance-Titan in 2021, preventative measures are crucial in maintaining a safe environment on campus.

Angela Hawley, the director of the student health center on campus, said much more can be done to ensure a safer environment.

“It’s important for all students to take an active role in their personal safety on campus [by] educating themselves about the resources on campus,” Hawley said.

Tarmann said that there are numerous resources ready to be utilized on campus to ensure a safe experience for all students. He added that cameras and blue light systems located on and around campus are great responsive measures for scenarios where somebody’s safety may be in peril. 

“The blue lights are great. We have those strategically placed around campus,” he said. “We have hundreds of cameras placed around campus in areas where we know there are vulnerabilities. To me, those are kind of reactive measures.”

Hawley said bystander intervention workshops are crucial in preventing sexual assaults. She emphasized the importance of a third party that can disrupt a harmful scenario between a perpetrator and a victim.

“Bystanders play a key role in preventing, discouraging and/or intervening when an act of violence has the potential to occur,” she said. “When all students, staff and faculty get involved this has a positive impact on campus culture.”

Bystander intervention training is available throughout the Red Zone period on the Oshkosh campus. It teaches students the different ways one can prevent sexual violence when it unfolds in front of them. 

The UWO Police Department has held self-defense classes and seminars in the past, and they have had many requests for more.

Tarmann said that intervention doesn’t always look like someone physically jumping in and saying something, although it can. 

The UWO Police Department provides numerous resources, such as the UWO Mobile app that allows students to call the station or talk to a dispatcher if they see something that doesn’t seem right. He said that in some scenarios, calling and reporting an incident is the best method.

“We have the UWO Mobile app, which is a way to partner with us as a police department by either chatting with us or asking the dispatcher to track you virtually if you are walking around,” Tarmann said. 

Another resource the police department provides is the safewalk program. If students fear that a certain route may be dangerous and do not want to walk alone, campus Community Service Officers (CSOs) will walk with the student to escort them.  

Tarmann said the medical amnesty policy, allowing students to not have to worry about getting in trouble for drinking, makes the service more appealing to those considering using it. 

“If you use one of our services and you’re underage drinking, we’re not worried about that,” he said. “We want to get you from point A to point B safely. We aren’t going to write you tickets, and you’re not going to get in trouble.”

The UWO Go service, jump-started by the Oshkosh Student Association, provides students with a free ride service so they do not have to walk alone. 

Lastly, Hawley said one of the most important things is to keep an open conversation about sexual violence year-round.

“It’s critical to engage in open and honest discussion about sexual assault, sexual abuse and violence to prevent its occurrence and support those who have been impacted,” Hawley said.

If students need help, they can also call 920-424-1212, or stop in the lower level of Radford Hall.