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Police cars parked outside the Athens Police Department on Sept. 18, 2017. (FILE)

Ohio University Police Department and Athens Police Department partner to investigate sexual assault reports

Editor's note: This story has been updated twice following a fourth report of sexual assault, released Wednesday, and a fifth report, released Thursday.

The Ohio University Police Department and Athens Police Department issued a joint statement Tuesday night following three sexual assaults reported to have taken place since the start of OU's Fall Semester. 

After the statement was released, two more reports of sexual assaults have been released. Those reports bring the total of reported sexual assaults in Athens since Fall Semester began to five.

According to the statement from OUPD Chief Andrew Powers and APD Chief Tom Pyle, the second and third cases involve a similarly described suspect, prompting the departments to investigate together. Additionally, the first three cases were reported to have started in the general vicinity of Mill Street.

“As a result, our detectives are working together to investigate whether the cases may be related, but we must stress it is too soon to make that determination,” the statement reads.

Two sexual assaults were reported to area police over the weekend. One was reported to have occurred in Wray House sometime between Sept. 1-2. A woman reported that she was kidnapped near Grosvenor Street and driven to her residence hall room, where she was raped by a suspect described as a white male, between 6 feet and 6 feet, 5 inches tall with a muscular build and dark hair and eyes. That report prompted OUPD to issue a campus-wide crime alert. 

APD also received a report of an off-campus sexual assault that reportedly occurred Sept. 2. The suspect is described as a white male, around 6 feet tall and clean shaven, with medium-length shaggy brown hair and athletic build.

The matter is under investigation, according to an APD police report.

The fourth report, which was released Wednesday, came from OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital and is anonymous. A woman said a man she knew touched her without her consent Wednesday morning, according to that report.

The fifth report, which was released Thursday afternoon, came from a mandatory reporter who said a sexual assault had occurred. According to the report, a suspect known to the victim sexually assaulted them in a residence on the east side of Athens, according to that incident's APD police report.

Citizens should stay alert and contact APD Lt. Jeff McCall with any information they believe valuable in solving the case. 

“We are encouraged to see an increase in women and men coming forward to report crimes that in the past may have gone unreported,” the joint news release reads. “Hopefully, that light will empower others to tell their stories. For those who are ready to take that step, we stand ready to support you.”

In response to the reports, OU Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina and Title IX Coordinator Kerri Griffin issued a statement to students Wednesday morning, in which they defined consent and provided tips and resources. 

“No matter how hard we try, sexual assaults still occur,” the statement read. “In fact, national statistics suggest that as many as one in four women will become victims of sexual assault while at college, and one in six men will become victims in their lifetime. Although we are seeing an increasing number of sexual assault reports, the broader view suggests the increase is in the number of reports to police, not incidents occurring.

The OU Student Senate announced on Twitter that it is working to organize a series of open forum discussions for students to "share their experiences" and propose ideas for keeping students safe on campus. The dates of the forums will be announced in "several days." 

Local police are asking anyone who may have information related to any of the offenses to contact either OUPD at 740-593-1911 or APD at 740-592-3313. Anonymous tips may be made to Crime Solvers Anonymous at 740-594-3331. 

University and law enforcement officials also encourage students to utilize late-night services like the CATS shuttle service, which is available by calling or texting 740-593-4040.

@sarahmpenix

sp936115@ohio.edu

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