College Campus Sexual Assaults: What the University of Illinois is doing to solve this issue
In recent months, University of Illinois students at Urbana-Champaign have received campus safety alerts on issues of sexual assaults, three to be exact. This grabbed the attention of not only the staff, students, and faculty of U of I but also well known media outlets like the Chicago Tribune and WGN TV. While these alerts and assaults are always devastating news to hear, U of I is trending upwards as one of the most invested and resource-rich universities that combats sexual assaults.
One of the Illini’s first main resources is in a website entitled ‘At Illinois We Care.’ This site provides students with a platform to report, respond and prevent sexual misconduct. U of I police department spokesman Patrick Wade says that sexual assaults tend to go underreported. But on the We Care website students are given easy, very helpful access to do so.
U of I’s second main resource to help prevent and slow the rates of sexual assault is the freshman required workshop known as Fycare. Fycare stands for First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education where new students are required to attend to become more knowledgeable about sexual assault. Sophomore Fycare facilitator George Sargeant says that these workshops allow students to become more aware of what sexual assault is, so they’ll know what to do if ever in that scenario or witnessing that scenario. Sargeant also says that Fycare dates back to starting between 20 to 25 years ago. The Fycare workshop not only highlights what sexual assault is, but also discusses on how to support a victim, understanding consent, and the resources this campus provides to help combat sexual assault.
The resources continue on with U of I’s It’s On Us campaign. It’s On Us takes a similar route as other sexual assault organizations by dealing and combating sexual assault with simply starting a conversation with students about the issue.
“We focus a lot on bystander intervention,” Volunteer ItsOnUs member Gabby Gendek said.
Wade also spoke on the issue of bystander intervention.
“We can’t have police officers in people’s bedrooms and that’s where it’s happening. It really comes down to students looking out for students. That’s why we spend a lot of time talking to people about bystander intervention.” The main goal of It’s On Us is to pinpoint every student to take responsibility for the issue of sexual assault.
In 2014, U of I launched their own It’s On Us campaign, a national organization that had already flown across the country spreading the word of sexual assault. It’s On Us mission statement is “Don’t be the person who stands by and does nothing. It’s on us to stop sexual assault before it starts. It’s on us. All of us.”
While the recent alerts gave many students a reason to be worried, U of I, compared to other universities across the country, is making tremendous strides in their preparedness and how they handle sexual assaults.
“We’ve been doing prevention and education regarding sexual assault on our campus for quite awhile,” Wade said. “We were one of the campuses that kind of got this going early about 20 to 25 years ago and we’ve only been doing more every year since then and we’re headed in the right direction.”
U of I students can continue to hope that things continue to get better, and remember that a lot of the progress the Illini are hoping to make, is on us.
You can view my full package here.
This was one of the most interesting journalism stories I had the pleasure of doing. My original plan going into it was to take an investigative angle, because I had seen the three recent campus safety alerts about sexual assault and the Chicago tribune article and was wondering what was going on here. I hadn’t seen alerts like that about the same issue in that short of span since I had gotten here, so I was intrigued as to why this happening. But my angle immediately changed after I met with first source into an angle of how much this campus really does to combat sexual assault, which naturally I thought was really cool and really unique.
I didn’t realize this until post-interview with my first source, U of I police department spokesperson Patrick Wade. My first question to Patrick was meant to be hard hitting, sort of like “why are we seeing all these alerts, what’s going on?” feel. But his response changed everything. He talked about how these happen all the time and more assaults even happen and just go underreported. He supported it with specific statistics from a recent campus wide survey they had conducted.
After the interview with Mr. Wade, I got in touch with Molly McLay, who works with Fycare and women’s studies. Patrick actually put me in touch with her which was very helpful. Molly then put me in touch with George Sargeant, a student who worked for Fycare. Instead of interviewing Molly, I wanted to interview George because I thought it would be intriguing to hear a student’s perspective and how knowledgeable he was on the issue. George provided me with great information and was very helpful in getting the basis of what Fycare is all about.
Then I came to my final sources, who in my opinion, were the best. I had been put into contact with Samantha Awad through my classmate Demi, who was incredibly helpful. Samantha volunteered for the It’s On Us campaign and we met in their meeting room in the student government complex in the Union. She also brought along another volunteer, Gabby Gendek, which was also very helpful.
As for my interviews and my sources, I thought everything went really smoothly. The one issue I struggled with was finding B-Roll. For my story, the sources talked a lot about sexual assaults on a broad platform, so the only shots I could really think of where of students and campus locations. I’m not really sure if this worked and I guess Professor Collins will be the judge of that.
Overall, I really enjoyed working on this project, as I had never done anything like it before. It was rewarding to hear what our campus is doing to combat such a terrible issue in sexual assault and made me proud to attend this university. I hope you guys enjoyed it, and more importantly, learned something from it.