Attendees only filled up about half of the tables set up in Baker Center during a Campus Conversation on sexual assault Tuesday.
Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said she was pleased at the amount of information the event provided, which focused on ways to prevent and respond to sexual assault. But she was disappointed by the turnout. About 30 people attended, including faculty, staff and about half a dozen students.
During the event, representatives from the Survivor Advocacy Program, the Ohio University Police Department, Campus Care, Counseling and Psychological Services, Better Bystanders, the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance and the Office of Community Standards presented information about the resources their organizations provide.
“Any one of these organizations could probably host a three-hour seminar on their own,” Hall-Jones said.
Mathew Hall, the OU assistant director of health education, and Kimberly Castor, the director of the Survivor Advocacy program, hosted the program. Hall described ways people can intervene to prevent sexual assault or other forms of violence.
Hall said many people don’t intervene because they think someone else will. Social scientists call this phenomena “diffusion of responsibility.”
“There’s always the studies about someone who has a heart attack on the sidewalk as 10 other people walk by,” Hall said.
He said other factors, like cultural beliefs or whether a person is in a position of authority, can affect whether he or she intervenes in a situation.
During a discussion afterward, Hall-Jones said part of the reason she would feel comfortable intervening in a situation is the position she holds at the university.
“I would probably be more comfortable intervening here in Athens than I would here in Columbus,” she said, adding that she would just call the police if she saw something questionable happen there.
Castor presented instructions for supporting a loved one who has survived a sexual assault. She said people should listen to survivors and believe their account of events. People should not press survivors for more information than they want to give, tell other people about the assault or try to contact the abuser, she said. They should also not touch the survivor without permission because he or she might not welcome physical contact.
Brandie Herdlitzka, a nurse at Ohio Health O’Bleness Hospital, described the process sexual assault survivors undergo when nurses collect a sexual assault evidence kit, or “rape kit.” She said the process takes about three hours.
“We aren’t here to rush you in and out,” she said. “We take it very seriously.”
Many people believe that taking a shower after an incident of sexual assault destroys any evidence present on a survivor’s body, Herdlitzka said, but that isn’t the case because nurses collect evidence as late as 96 hours after the attack.
Herdlitzka said two out of 30 nurses on the Ohio Health O’Bleness Hospital staff are certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and four more are in training.
Hall and Castor explained that the trauma sexual assault survivors endure can affect many facets of their lives. They might not be comfortable in their bedroom if they were assaulted there — a majority of sexual assaults take place in the victim’s home — and they might not be able to confide in people they trust or participate in activities they enjoyed if the person who assaulted them is in their friend group.
"Everyone was really engaged in the conversation," Hall-Jones said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated where Brandie Herdlitzka works. The article has been updated to include the most accurate information.