A Call to Action

Posted: September 6, 2019

If we’re ever going to take bold steps forward to protect victims and prevent sexual assault, we need to change our mindsets as a society so that we stop blaming victims and stop minimizing sexual assaults by protecting the abusers.

Section 940.225 of the Wisconsin Statutes has created four degrees of sexual assault. The degrees are based upon the amount of force used by the perpetrator and the harm done to the victim. First, second, and third degree sexual assaults are felonies; fourth degree sexual assault is a misdemeanor.

At the end of the day; sexual assault of any degree is wrong. Can we all agree on that?

Combine sexual assault with false imprisonment and the heinousness is ratcheted up exponentially.

Section 940.30 of the Wisconsin Statutes defines false imprisonment as, “Whoever intentionally confines or restrains another without the person’s consent and with knowledge that he or she has no lawful authority to do so is guilty of a Class H felony.”

The following is quoted text from a public post by a student at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse about being sexually assaulted by a professor.

Last semester I finally reported an incident that happened my freshman year.

A professor gave me an override to enter into his senior level class (This is a common theme for him to recruit freshmen girls into his other classes). When I commented on how I thought my drawing skills were not as good as the rest of the class (because I hadn’t taken the prerequisites like everyone else), he offered to give me drawing lessons. I was so excited that a professor was willing to help me advance my skills.

When it came time for my “lesson” he took me into a small paper room and locked the door behind him. I was immediately uncomfortable but didn’t really understand what was happening. He asked me to pose for him. Then asked me to take off my sweater (I had a tank top on underneath).

He made comments about my body and then took his hand and began to lift up my shirt. I stopped him. I felt like I was in a bad dream and was so uncomfortable I didn’t know what to do.

Thankfully someone else began to jiggle the door handle to get in the room. He made us wait 5 minutes before he opened the door and then we walked out of the room. A classmate was standing by the door and watched me walk out of a locked paper room with our professor. I was so embarrassed.

I quit taking art classes and tried to forget that it happened. Unhappy with my Marketing major I switched backed to art. I was back in the art building and saw this same professor walking through the halls with other freshmen girls and felt sick to my stomach. I knew it was wrong of me not to report this incident so last fall I went to Human Resources and filed a report.
They took me in for questioning and told me they would start an investigation over the summer and that they would keep me updated on the process. Summer is now over and I never received any updates on the matter. 

Section 36.11(22)(2)(c) Wisconsin Statues requires any person employed at a UW institution who witnesses a sexual assault on campus or who receives a report from a student enrolled in the institution that the student has been sexually assaulted must report the incident.

That being said, UW-La Crosse does provide confidential support and resources for students and faculty if they’ve been victimized.

We call on the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to respond in a way that empowers students and promotes campus-wide safety.

Hold abusers accountable. Believe survivors. Do something about it other than a slap to the wrist that allows the abuser to continue to abuse.

Unwanted touch is sexual assault.

Locking someone behind a door against their will is false imprisonment.

Because UW-L as an institution has faltered in their support of this survivor, now it’s up to faculty, staff, students, and our community to hold UWL accountable with regard to Professor and Chair of the Art Department, Joel Elgin and his role at the facility.