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Cutler Hall on Ohio University's campus in Athens, Ohio. (FILE)

Fewer students on campus due to COVID-19 pandemic likely caused decrease in reported sexual assaults during red zone

There have been fewer reports of sexual assault in Athens during the “red zone” this year than in past years, likely due to the reduced number of students on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The first five to eight weeks of the college semester are known as the “red zone,” when around 50% of on campus sexual assaults occur, according to the Psychology Today website. There have been fewer cases of sexual assault reported to both the Ohio University Police Department and Athens Police Department during that period this semester than in past Fall semesters.

Between August 1 and September 16, OUPD received one rape report, zero gross sexual imposition reports, zero sexual imposition reports and zero sexual battery reports. 

APD received zero rape reports, zero sexual imposition reports and zero sexual battery reports during the same period this semester. 

During the same period last Fall semester, OUPD received two rape reports, zero gross sexual imposition reports, one sexual imposition and zero sexual battery reports. APD received 4 rape reports, one sexual battery report and zero sexual imposition reports during the same period.


These decreases are in large part due to the reduced number of students on campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Athens County Prosecutor’s office. Normally, the prosecutor’s office sees the most sexual assault cases during the red zone period, a pattern that repeats year after year. 

The prosecutor’s office has requested to take part in OU’s orientation to help bring about awareness of sexual assault on campus and when it is most prevalent. However, this goal has yet to be achieved.

The prosecutor’s office created the Sexual Assault Resource Collaborative in 2014, a collaborative group of many different sexual assault resources within Athens, including OUPD, APD, the Survivor Advocacy Program, the prosecutor's office and others. 

Though the pandemic has in part helped to decrease the number of reported sexual assaults on campus during the red zone, that does not mean that they do not occur. Victims of sexual assault can contact OUPD, APD, SAP and other nearby organizations for help and support.


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