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Editorial: Continuing the conversation about sexual assault

We are well into the first week of October, meaning school has been in session for over a month. The first month of college is a monumental transition or exciting return for Ohio University students. 

Week six, however, also marks the end of the “red zone” period — the first six weeks of school in which the most sexual assaults occur on a college campus. 

So far this academic year, there have been nine sexual assaults reported to both the Athens Police Department and the Ohio University Police Department. Last academic year, at the end of the red zone, there were 18 sexual assaults reported to both departments.

Statistically, it may seem like there were fewer assaults, but that doesn’t mean it’s any better. A slight decrease in reports can still mean sexual assaults are occurring, but they might not be reported. It would be better if no sexual assaults occurred at all. 

The red zone is not a new conversation among OU students. Last year, students rallied to change the conversation on campus after seeing an increase in the number of sexual assaults being reported. Students, police officers and university administrators all wanted to see a change in campus culture

The conversation could be seen and heard all around campus through banners hung on houses, the “It’s on Us” rally and group chats being started for safe walks home.

Within the first few weeks of school this year, Student Affairs and Student Senate spent about $15,000 on creating sexual assault awareness banners that would be hung around the school during the red zone. It was meant as a way for students to know they have support as well as being aware of the resources available on campus.

While it is great that the university acknowledges this issue, the use of banners hung around campus during this period is simply not going to whisk away the issue at hand.

We can have rallies, hang banners and create chat groups, but eventually, the conversation fades into the background and among the lives of busy college students. It’s just a start to changing the way people change the campus culture. 

Unfortunately, you probably have been or know someone who has been sexually assaulted. The majority of sexual assaults that occur are not by some masked person hiding in the bushes. It is done by someone the victims know and most likely thought they could trust. 

Students need to be starting conversations on a peer level to change the culture. People can have conversations with their friends about safety, but jokes and popular culture also promote the perception without most people even realizing. It starts by speaking up and stepping in to address words and actions that can promote rape culture. 

The conversation also needs to expand to be inclusive of all people. The conversation generally revolves around white women, but it affects people of all backgrounds, races and genders. The conversation needs to have people be more aware and be supportive of all.

When we take this into account, conversations can be expanded, and more effective change can happen beyond what is seen around campus and being reported on in the news. 

It all starts with Bobcats looking out for other Bobcats. 

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Ellen Wagner, Managing Editor Laila Riaz and Digital Managing Editor Taylor Johnston. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.

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