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Sara L. Trower, executive director of Ohio University’s Office for Equity, Civil Rights Compliance, and Accessibility (ECRCA) speaks at a panel about sexual assault in Baker Center on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Sexual assault panel discusses awareness and prevention

The Ohio University Police Department has received seven rape reports since the beginning of Spring Semester.

On Thursday, concerned community members and representatives from the City of Athens and Ohio University gathered in the Bobcat Lounge on the first floor of the Baker University Center to discuss sexual assault in the community.

“My personal vision … is that those type of people that think they can treat other humans like that see this as the last college they want to go to,” Jason Pina, vice president for Student Affairs, said. “I want that rumor to be out there.”

Ten panelists listened and collaborated with each other and audience members about sexual assault awareness and prevention in Athens.

That started with some clarifications.

Panelists explained the qualifications for a mandated reporter, someone who has to tell law enforcement about a sexual assault.

“Essentially, everyone at this table is a mandated reporter except myself,” Kim Castor, director of Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program, said.

Other panelists chimed in about how important it is for people to be aware of who is and who isn’t a mandated reporter on campus.

If a student does not want to report, different accommodations on campus are available, Castor said.

Those services include Campus Care, Counseling and Psychological Services, Survivor Advocacy Program and the Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, for members of the community who are not OU students.

The panelists spoke of the increased sexual assault reporting at OU as well.

“I know the numbers are problematic,” Sara Trower, executive director of Civil Rights Compliance and Title IX coordinator, said. “One sexual assault is one too many.”

While the numbers have been increasing, the panelists debated if that was due to more incidents or more reporting taking place.

Tom Pyle, chief of the Athens Police Department, said his department does not have enough data to explain the rise in reports.

Education and the destigmatization surrounding sexual assault could be why more have been reported, panelists said.

But their work isn’t done, they added.

“We can’t be complacent with the high risk drinking issue because we know that relates to sexual assault,” Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said.

Community efforts including the hockey team going through bystander prevention, Greek Week’s theme revolving around sexual assault awareness and continued education for staff members are essential to curbing the amount of incidents happening on campus, the panelists said.

“It’s not Ohio University’s responsibility, solely, to prevent sexual assault,” Pyle said. “It’s a community effort.”

As the discussion came to a close, a final question greeted the panelists.

“If there was one thing you could say to a survivor, what would it be?” an audience member asked.

Unanimously, a chorus of “I believe you,” came from the panel members.


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