This past weekend sent already anxious students into a frenzy, especially women. Social media posts circulated calling for students not to attend frat parties due to a “rape initiation night” rumor. This meant that fraternity pledges had the intention to sexually assault girls, particularly freshmen, as an initiation task.
The post has since been deleted and confirmed it was meant for Oklahoma University, not Ohio University. These rumors have also not been confirmed true, but warning emails from RAs and other campus resources were enough to scare anyone into believing so.
What can be confirmed is that students should be cautious during this time known as the “red zone.” The “red zone” refers to the first few months on campus during which predators are more likely to sexually assault students. According to Psychology Today, about 50% of on-campus sexual assaults occur during this period.
Recent examples include the rape of a minor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, also known as Fiji. Rape and sexual assault cases have also been known to happen at OU during this dangerous period during recent years.
Although there were fewer cases of sexual assault reported last year, this is likely due to the fewer number of students on campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, students need to be prepared for sexual assault and know their rights on what they can do if it does happen.
Before I dive in on sexual assault prevention, I want to make a disclaimer. I will not mention what you wear, how drunk you get or possibly changing your mind as means of prevention. This is not meant to make anyone feel like they could have done something different if you have been sexually assaulted. This is not meant to victim blame. These are just tips to keep in mind when going out because this is so common on college campuses.
There are many ways to stay safe on campus at night. Remember to never walk home alone and not to leave anyone behind at parties or the bars. It also always helps to have some sort of self-defense tool on yourself, such as a pepper spray keychain. Lastly, and probably most importantly, is to trust your gut. If someone makes you uncomfortable or tries to pressure you into anything, leave the situation. It’s better to possibly be rude than end up getting hurt.
After an assault
In 2019, a Forbes study reported that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while at college. Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is very common. In case this does happen to you, please know you are not alone, and there are people who want to help you.
After an assault or a rape, survivors have a few options: going to the hospital, filing a report and seeking professional help to heal.
No matter if you choose to file a report or not, it’s important to go to the hospital for medical care. This is to ensure there’s no initial injuries. Before you go, make sure not to shower or change your clothing. All emergency rooms must provide care for survivors, regardless of age or gender identity.
You can always choose to complete a rape kit if you decide to press charges. An examiner will collect certain things, such as the survivor’s clothing, to test for evidence. A survivor can decide whether or not they want to complete this testing, and any part of the testing can be declined at any point.
Reporting the assault
If you decide to pursue legal action after a sexual assault, you can report the case to either the Ohio University Police Department or Athens Police Department. This can be done before or after going to the hospital.
If you do decide to take this step, remember it’s OK to report rape even if you were intoxicated. You will not get in trouble for being drunk or high with the police. Their main concern is making sure you are safe.
Treatment after assault
Whether or not you choose to pursue charges, all survivors should seek professional help after an assault. Survivors should not have to go through this alone, and there are many resources on campus to ensure you don’t have to.
The Survivor Advocacy Program offers a 24/7 hotline to speak with an advocate for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, stalking and domestic violence. They help with medical, housing, reporting and safety services for survivors. OU also provides Counseling and Psychological Services for individual counseling.
You may be saying to yourself: ‘this will never be me. This will never happen to me.’ I hope everyone reading this article is lucky enough that it doesn’t. However, all students need to know their rights in case it does. No matter what you decide to do in a worst-case scenario, please be sure you’re protecting yourself. Stay safe, Bobcats.
Hannah Campbell is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hannah by tweeting her at @hannahcmpbell.