Rape Crisis Center 'deeply troubled' by MMSD representative comments

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The Madison Area School District is garnering scrutiny over comments made by the districts Safety and Security Coordinator, Joe Balles.

Following an alleged rape at Madison East High School, Balles told a local Madison TV station that, "kids will be kids." Balles went on to ask people be patient, and know the schools are very safe but there are incidents that are going to happen from time to time.

The alleged assault happened around 4 p.m. last Wednesday, according to the 15-year-old girl. She told Balles two 15-year-old boys sexually assaulted her in a bathroom.

The Rape Crisis Center sent out a press release in reaction to the comments made by Balles to the TV Station.

“The media informs the public about sexual violence in our community, and so it’s important that when representatives from our schools speak, they avoid blaming or avoidance statements like the one made by MMSD’s Joe Balles,” said Executive Director, Erin Thornley-Parisi. “We must work together to end rape culture.”

The Madison Metropolitan School District reacted with a statement saying:

"There is no place in our schools for sexual violence or comments that minimize sexual assault. As a school district, we are partnering with the Rape Crisis Center to ensure that students and staff are learning about rape culture, sexual assault and consent and so that students know where to report incidents if they occur. We will continue to work with advocates and student leaders to ensure these topics are part of their learning and that our schools are safe for all."

Balles also released a statement saying:

"I made an extremely poor word choice in my interview yesterday that does not represent my view or the district's view. I was speaking about students being present in our buildings in general after school and how we ensure our buildings are secure at that time. Still, I should have not made those comments in a story on this topic. It is never ok to rationalize, minimize or excuse sexual assault, and there is no excuse for my words, which did not recognize the profoundly deep impact that sexual violence has. It is my job to ensure schools are physically, mentally and emotionally safe spaces for all. I recognize the deep impact that my words had, and I will do better for our students."

The RCC encourages victims and survivors of sexual violence, or those offering support to these individuals, to call the 24-hour helpline. English speakers can call 608-251-7273, and Spanish speakers can call La Línea de Ayuda at 608-258-2567.