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Mayor Wiehl’s comments about sexual assault are misguided, discouraging

When speaking with a Post reporter about the Athens Police Department’s recently released 2014 annual report, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl seemed to miss the point regarding the increase in calls for service relating to sexual assault.

Wiehl said his office hasn’t researched programs that could combat sexual assault and cited how the Ohio University Survivor Advocacy Program was doing well on that front.

But in the same conversation, he seemed to place the blame on survivors of such crimes.

“We can only put so many officers on the street,” Wiehl told the Post reporter. “It’s not a case of lighting; it’s not a case of behavior; it’s usually a case of a lot of people running around and not paying attention (to their surroundings) for the most part.”

We vehemently disagree with that logic.

It’s the classic “don’t walk late at night alone; it’s your fault for being dumb,” argument. We’re especially discouraged to hear that our city’s top government official harbors that opinion about a topic that is so important to many of his constituents.

No survivor of sexual assault is to blame for what happened to him or her.

A lack of that fundamental understanding can prevent prosecution, as many survivors are afraid to come forward with information implicating their perpetrators.

It’s noteworthy that Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said it’s his department’s goal to “provide department wide training in the area of sexual assault investigations,” and “partner with victim advocates to develop training to enhance understanding and support between advocates and law enforcement officers,” by the end of 2015.

Based on Wiehl’s comments, we think our mayor and his office could benefit from similar training.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: editor-in-chief Jim Ryan, managing editor Sara Jerde, opinion editor Xander Zellner and projects editor Allan Smith. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.

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