Two University of Wisconsin-Stout students received a Voices of Courage award from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault for their work to help raise awareness about consent and sexual assault.
Ellie McKee, who graduated in May with a degree in vocational rehabilitation and a concentration in alcohol and other drug abuse and social work, and Jessi Weber, a senior majoring in applied mathematics and computer science, were recognized June 8 in Wisconsin Dells. Neither was able to attend the luncheon.
McKee, of Onalaska, who lives in Eau Claire, was president of UW-Stout Students for Consent this past academic year. She works at the Dunn County Human Services Department as a Comprehensive Community Service facilitator providing resources for mental health and substance abuse disorders. Weber, of Middleton, is vice president of the student organization, a position she held last academic year too.
Voices of Courage awards recognize individuals whose work and commitment to ending sexual violence goes above and beyond what is expected of them, according to Peter Fiala, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault technology and events coordinator.
McKee and Weber received the award in the Campus Catalyst category, the first year for that classification. They were nominated by UW-Stout Associate Dean of Students John Achter.
“Ellie and Jessi have been tireless advocates for sexual assault prevention over the past two years,” Achter wrote in the nomination.
McKee led an initiative last year to change the student organization name from Students Against Sexual Assault to the more positive name Students for Consent. “This year, Ellie and Jessi personally planned, organized and carried out a highly successful Week of Action for sexual assault awareness month that included a film screening and panel discussion, a performance-based presentation (Speak About It), an art installation and group workshops and discussions,” Achter noted.
“The Week of Action exceeded expectations in terms of the quality of programming and overall attendance, and they pulled this off with little staff involvement,” Achter said. “Students for Consent is still gaining momentum, and Ellie’s and Jessi's positive attitude and resilient spirit have helped the group persevere and thrive.
“This student-led programming is critical on campus, as Stout currently does not have a position dedicated to sexual violence prevention. Both of them have represented Students for Consent on Stout’s Sexual Violence Coalition, where they have been key voices in discussing issues of prevention and response to sexual violence. Their commitment in the midst of busy student lives is worthy of recognition,” Achter said.
During the Students for Consent week held April 9-13, the group displayed clothing in the Memorial Student Center as part of a survivor art installation entitled “What Were You Wearing?” The installation challenged the argument that clothing causes rape, allowing people to see themselves reflected in the outfits victims were wearing.
Also during Speak About It, a group based in Portland, Maine, performed skits about consent boundaries and healthy relationships and suggested ways to confront the issues. The film “The Hunting Ground” was shown, followed by a panel discussion.
“I was proud of the award,” McKee said.
At new student orientation Tuesday, Sept. 4, Speak About It will return to campus. “That’s the biggest success you can have as a student group, to have administration see it and want to bring it back. I felt we were heard as students,” McKee said.
Weber said she was surprised by the nomination and the award. “I was absolutely humbled and thrilled,” she said.
The Week of Action had more involvement then expected, which is a positive for the university and students, Weber said.
UW-Stout students Jessi Weber, at left, and Ellie McKee, show some of the clothing that was on display in April at the Memorial Student Center as part of a survivor art installation entitled “What Were You Wearing.” The clothing matched descriptions sexual assault survivors reported they were wearing at the time of the assaults.
The award recognizes individuals whose work and commitment to ending sexual assault goes above and beyond what is expected of them.