Friday blog rescue: WisconsinWatch series on sexual assault at UW

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — a separate, non-profit, public-interest reporting group, housed here in SJMC — recently launched a multimedia reporting project and resource entitled Suffering in Silence: Sexual assaults at the University of Wisconsin. It’s already gained attention from both the UW administration and the media:

At University of Wisconsin campuses, sexual assaults remain seriously underreported and many women still face barriers to notifying authorities. Most victims do not report crimes. The statistics are inconsistent. And most rapists go free.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism today launches Suffering in Silence: Sexual Assaults at the University of Wisconsin, an investigation that examines how UW is tackling sexual assaults on its 13 four-year campuses. The multimedia project, which includes audio clips and a searchable database of campus reports, is the result of dozens of interviews the Center’s reporters conducted with rape victims, UW officials, advocates, researchers and others.

Reactions to the investigation began even before the stories were published. As a result of our reporting, on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the UW System acknowledged its annual summary of sexual assaults — required by the Legislature — should be more accessible and posted it on a new Web page. Two days later, UW-Madison Dean of Students Lori Berquam issued a statement saying that “reading these stories reminds us of the importance of the work we are doing to try to prevent these horrible acts, to respond in victim-centered ways and to seek accountability from those who would perpetrate them.”

These reports were put together by a staff of both seasoned professionals and young reporters (several are current students and recent graduates of our program).  The separate Suffering in Silence web site that they have put together to highlight this enterprise reporting is a great example of the ways in which today’s journalists are exploring difficult but crucial social issues by mixing text, image and audio, connecting their stories to other news agencies and public organizations, and inviting open but civil feedback to their work through social network tools.