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Ohio University, Athens officials continue the conversation about sexual assault

Ohio University and Athens officials are stepping up and saying issues about sexual assault belong to all of us, not just those who have it in their job description. 

The Ohio University Police Department received a report of rape Saturday. It’s the first report of sexual assault the department has received since the beginning for the semester. OUPD collected an anonymous SANE kit from OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital. 

During the Fall Semester, OUPD had eight reports of sexual assault — seven rape reports and one gross sexual imposition report from Aug. 25 to Dec. 2 in 2018.

OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said it can’t be predicted when a crime will happen, and he knows sexual assaults are under reported. OUPD has worked with different university programs and groups, such as Start By Believing and the Survivor Advocacy Program, to increase the interaction between students and police. 

The Athens Police Department has not received reports of rape, sexual imposition or gross sexual imposition since Jan. 13. Last semester, APD had 19 reports of sexual assault — 13 rape reports and six reports of sexual imposition or assault — from Aug. 25 to Dec. 12 in 2018. 

APD Chief Tom Pyle said the number of reports are skewed because a lot of sexual assault goes unreported.

“A lot of people say, ‘What’s law enforcement going to do to stamp out these sexual assaults?’” Pyle said. “I still to this day and to my dying day say, ‘What can the law enforcement community do that we’re aren’t already doing that is acceptable to the community?’”

Pyle said about 90 percent of cases are not happening in public places with strangers but in private residences with a known person. There is a high demand everywhere for patrol by APD. The department patrols in squad cars around Athens, walking patrols Uptown and doing bar checks to try to increase police visibility and deter crime, if possible.  

When APD is involved in a case, it is sometimes limited by the rights of the survivor. If a survivor reports a case, the department wants to empower survivors and let them decide how to move forward. Pyle said that in the majority of cases, survivors choose not to criminally pursue the case for a variety of reasons. By respecting the wishes of the survivor, officers can’t arrest a suspect or have them prosecuted. 

OU Student Senate President Maddie Sloat said Student Senate wants to continue the conversation about sexual assault issues and prevention throughout the entire year. It is one of the three priorities for Student Senate this year, which includes launching a safety app for students.

Sloat said conversations can be easier to have when it’s about strangers and sexual assault, but people need to have those “gray area” conversations. Those include talking about sex with a significant other and how a person doesn’t owe their partner sex just because they are dating. Another example she gave was going home drunk with someone, not wanting to have sex and not knowing how to feel or what to do after.

Sloat said those are the challenging conversations students actually need to be having since they make up a lot more of the experiences than situations with strangers. 

“I think that is something that was missing or at least that we were trying to talk about last semester a lot,” Sloat said. “I think a lot of people want to blame the police or the administration, and there are genuine real criticisms that can be directed at the police and there are real things that we can be doing better.”

Student Senate Vice President Hannah Burke said people should practice bystander intervention, check in on their friends and change the way we speak to each other. She said people need to change the way we use words or let others talk about things around each other. People should have conversations about sex and rape and stop sexualizing people, specifically women.

“Understanding that each and every one of us are making decisions that dictate the culture around Ohio University,” Burke, who is a member of The Post’s Publishing Board, said. “It takes each of us and all of us to make that change to stand up when we see something that is not good.”

Last semester, a lot of people were talking about ”stranger danger” and the need for a greater police presence, Women’s Center Director Geneva Murray said. However, there was less conversation coming from people who have been sexually assaulted by people that they know. 

“We know that it’s more likely that it’s someone that we know that assaults us,” Murray said. “So it’s incredibly imperative that we not pass the buck in regards to (that) this is someone's job because feeling safer and being safer are two very different things.”

The Women’s Center is trying to make events that can continue even after it is over, such as the What Were You Wearing event. 

“We’ve really tried to do strategically here is to think more expansively in terms of how we can carry threads of the programs that we’ve done throughout the year to other programs so that we’re thinking in terms of like scaffolding,” Murray said.


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