More students feel comfortable to report sexual assault, survey finds

More students feel comfortable to report sexual assault, survey finds

Allison Mueller

Cheney Mason / Winonan

Winona State University is where students should feel safe, yet reports of sexual assault and violence are still possible to occur.

A Campus Climate survey performed last January showed Winona State  at a national average level for sexual violence, according to Tamara Berg, director of women’s, gender and sexuality studies department at Winona State.

“If you look at the annual security report it shows one reported assault in the last three years,” Berg said.

A majority of sexual assault instances go without ever being reported by the victim at all, Berg said, and the only way Winona State gathered accurate data about sexual assault victims was shown in the climate report.

“We had about one in five people report that they had unwanted sexual contact since the start of the last academic school year,” Berg said. “I think that surprised a lot of people.”

Berg expressed that the number of sexual assaults reported in the last year has gone up, meaning more victims are gaining the courage to speak up.

“That shows that the university is doing a good job of letting students knowing that we will take sexual assault and dating violence seriously and support students if they come forward,” Berg said.

Winona State has an ongoing support group made up of a trained counselor as well as a Gender-Based Violence helpline available 24/7, where students are able to talk confidentially to an advocate.

“My big advice to students is, if you see something that doesn’t seem right, say something or if someone tells you something, believe them and encourage them to access support,” Berg said. “The helpline is really great for support.”

Berg encourages students to use these resources if victims need support or further information on reporting assault.

Lori Mikl, director of affirmative action/equity and legal affairs takes care of the legal investigation aspect of reporting sexual assaults and also offers support for victims.

“My job for the campus as far as sexual violence is to investigate the complaints,” Mikl said. “I am notified of reports, and then I reach out to the victim.”

An important part of Mikl’s job is assuring students are aware of their rights and taking care of any accommodations victims may need.

“Sexual assault is an issue that has always been there, but I think it has come to the forefront of the nations attention.” Mikl said.

She also believes sexual assault has always been under reported and remains under reported.

“There is difficulty coming forward and actually making that report.” Mikl said.

Mikl believes the number of sexual assaults reported this past academic school year has increased due to students feeling more comfortable reporting.

“Students have better awareness of what sexual violence is and their reporting rights,” she said. “I do everything I can to investigate and resolve complaints.”

There are multiple resources to seek on campus for sexual assault or violence at Winona State University.

If support or help is needed call the 24/7 GBV helpline at 507-457-5610, Legal affairs office at 507-457-5008 as well as Counseling and Wellness service at 507-457-5330 where calls are confidential and answered by trained professionals and advocates.