One survivor's story leads to more sexual assault accusations against UW-Madison student

One victim told police she was "empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her."
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Multiple women have come forward to tell authorities a University of Wisconsin-Madison college student sexually assaulted them, and he is now facing dozens of charges.

Alec Cook, 20, who's from Edina, was arrested last week after a 20-year-old woman reported she was sexually assaulted by him.

She told police Cook assaulted her inside his apartment on Oct. 12. He was arrested, and on Oct. 19 charged with four counts of second-degree sexual assault, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The charges say he had the victim in what she called a "death grip" and assaulted her repeatedly. Cook's lawyer says the encounter was consensual.

But in the days following that report, at least three more women have come forward to say they were victims of Cook. One told police she was sexually assaulted by him in a downtown apartment in 2015, and another said the same happened to her in February of this year.

That woman said she saw the original news story about him being arrested, "and was empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her, that I thought I could now finally tell." (The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates 90 percent of assault victims on college campuses don't report it.)

UW-Madison police also said a woman reached out to report Cook touched her inappropriately at least 15 times during class during the spring of 2016. The department has sent those to the Dane County district attorney for review.

Court documents show "dozens" of women have reached out to officials with allegations, WKOW reports.

Cook could now be charged with as many as 30 more criminal counts when he appears in court Thursday, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Cook is being held in Dane County jail, and is banned from the UW-Madison campus. On oct. 21, after more women came forward, Dean of Students Lori Berquam called sexual violence "unacceptable in our campus and community."

In the statement, Berquam said there are many options and services available to students who have experienced sexual assault, whether they choose to report the assault to police or not.

"I pledge that all reports made to UW–Madison will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly," she wrote.

The problem of sexual assaults on college campuses

Sexual assault on college campuses is described as "pervasive" by RAINN – the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. The group says about 11.2 percent of students experience some form of sexual assault through physical force or violence.

Female undergraduate students are about four times more likely than male undergraduate students to have experienced sexual assault.

And RAINN says college-aged women (18 to 24 years old) are significantly more likely to be assaulted. Many also don't report the assault:

Last fall, the White House started the It's On Us campaign – spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, it asks people to intervene if they're a bystander to sexual assault, recognize that if consent is not or can not be given that it's a crime, and support survivors.

There were 17 cases of rape and nine reports of fondling on the UW-Madison campus in 2014, according to federal crime reporting data (which schools are required to send in). Most occurred in on-campus student housing.

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