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Dr. Geneva Murray, the director of the women's center, shares aspects of her ongoing 14-year recovery from anorexia and bulemia during the opening ceremony of the National Eating Disorder Association Walk at West State Street Park on Saturday. (EMILY MATTHEWS | PHOTO EDITOR)

Regional campuses have low sexual assault report rates, increased outreach

Women’s Center Director Geneva Murray announced to Student Senate last month that the center is looking into sexual assault awareness and prevention programming at the Ohio University regional campuses for Fall Semester 2019. 

Murray plans to tour exhibits and hold workshops during the red zone period, or the six-week period when sexual assault increases on college campuses across the country, to raise awareness for sexual and domestic violence on regional campuses. 

“It’s going to be a photo/voice workshop in which we ask survivors to take pictures … the gist of it would be ‘what does a survivor look like to you?’” Murray said. “And so we’re working with survivors to take those pictures. They’ll then be writing that, and we will be using that in an exhibit to educate people about survivor experiences.”

During campus events that aim to raise awareness against sexual misconduct, mandatory reporters are exempted from their obligation to report incidents of sexual assault by the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance, or ECRC. 

“Survivors may tell their stories and people who are around that would otherwise be required to report are not, so that we can let them tell their stories in a place where they’re comfortable,” Kerri Griffin, the interim director of ECRC and Title IX coordinator, said. 

Although ECRC can exempt faculty and staff from their mandatory reporting positions at such events, information on where people can get support is required so that they know where support is available. 

There were no reports of rape or dating violence on the regional campuses between 2015 and 2017, according to the OU Clery Report Annual Security Report. 

Regional campuses do not receive a lot of reports of sexual assault; however, that could be due to the fact that the regional campuses are not residential campuses, Griffin said. 

The process for reporting sexual misconduct is virtually the same on regional campuses as on the Athens campus, but distance changes how it looks. Initial outreach is done over the phone or Skype, while interviews and hearings are typically done at the respective regional campus. 

“We just did one at a branch campus where our investigators and hearing officers loaded up in the university vehicle and drove off to the branch campus,” Griffin said. “We try to let technology help us, but for hearings we try to take them to the branch campus because if you’ve got two parties, plus witnesses and they’re all at whatever campus they’re at … it’s easier to take the process to them.”  

ECRC and Counseling and Psychological Services are just two examples of centrally based offices at OU, meaning they are located at the Athens campus but serve OU students at all of the campuses. At each campus, there is some way for students to get connected with the support they need. 

“It’s good to know at the regional campuses that if we don’t have the expertise on campus, we certainly have people (who) are attuned to helping us get the information we need,” Regional Higher Education Dean Bill Willan said. “So the cooperation we get when we reach out is first rate and the relationships, they’re strong relationships between those who are out at the regional campuses who do these jobs and the ones (in Athens) who do the jobs.”

OU officials are working to increase awareness of sexual misconduct because of the persisting importance of prevention.

“I work with the deans of all the campuses to make sure all faculty and staff get training,” Willan said. “Each campus has a good relationship with their local police departments, with survivor advocacy groups.”

ECRC is in daily contact with OU’s Survivor Advocacy Program and in regular contact with the police forces surrounding the regional campuses. 

“We have memorandum of findings with the different universities and the police in those regions because we have our own police force here, but we don’t necessarily at Chillicothe or Southern,” Griffin said. 

Last July, ECRC had three staff members. Now there are seven.

“There are many campuses, but there’s one OHIO and that’s how we view it,” Griffin said. “This (university) administration in particular says we need to address this. You need to have enough staff to do that and we are better staffed than we have been, probably ever.”


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