Home Social Justice Featured Blog: OUPD sends the right messages about sexual assault and campus rape

Featured Blog: OUPD sends the right messages about sexual assault and campus rape

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Police departments across the country have a powerful platform to represent the interests of a troubling number of people affected by rape, assault and “sexual” violence. Nine such instances have been reported to the Ohio University Police Department alone this semester.

OUPD is becoming more active (some OU students would ask for more, assuredly) in combatting sexual violence on and around campus. The messaging in one of its most recent e-mails to OU students was particularly instructive and insightful.

Some of the points that were hit on in the message include:

  • “In every case, the suspect was known to the victim and the encounter began as consensual.”
  • “Most of the offenses involved alcohol consumption.”
  • “Most importantly, in all of the cases, the victim reported that the assailant did not have consent to engage in sex, continued after consent was withdrawn, or engaged in conduct beyond her consent.”
  • “It’s important to understand that crime alerts are not automatically issued every time a major crime is reported. Instead, we examine the specific facts of each report to determine if an ongoing threat to the community exists and if so, we issue a crime alert.”
  • “It’s also important to keep in mind that emailing the details of a very personal crime to the entire campus — as happens when we issue a crime alert — can have a profound impact on the victim, especially when s/he knows the suspect.”

A section in OUPD’s message titled “Understanding What Consent Means” accurately portrayed how consent is an ongoing concept that can be withdrawn at any point during an encounter. This is a part of the dialogue about rape and sexual assault that would be of great benefit to learn, especially since in each of the cases reported to OUPD, the “encounter was consensual” in its origins.

You can read specifics about “sex offenses” under Ohio law here.

Note that “sex offenses” has quotes around it, as there is arguably an inherent issue with describing non-consensual encounters, even if they started with intimate origins, with the marker of “sex,” or “sexual.”

Remember, the absence of no does not mean yes.

The email also addresses thatYou Can Prevent Sexual Assault.”

People in general — not talking about victims here — tend to absolve themselves of responsibility when it comes to assault and “sex crimes.” While these offenses are directly the fault of the offenders, there are underlying systemic causes that Ohio University Police Chief Andrew Powers referred to as “rape culture” in his email. In this sense, more has to be done from citizens in a society as a whole to address such problems.

Some of the issues addressed in this section:

  • Don’t joke about rape.
  • Be wary of the influence of alcohol and how it can create questionable legal situations.
  • Don’t be afraid to call out reprehensive rhetoric and actions that contribute to rape culture.
  • Don’t make light of the possibility of rape and assault upon people who are not typically suspected to be raped/assaulted.

Some within the Athens and OU community have criticized OUPD for not sending out “crime alerts” to students. However, OUPD’s response is that it issues an alert only if there is a legitimate ongoing threat, and the department said it generally avoids sending out alerts pertaining to sexual violence because such alerts can cause additional stress for people who then might have to deal with their assailant’s ire, which could include ongoing attention and threats. Not knowing the intricate details of these situations makes it hard to claim that alerts should be issued; I’d defer to the privacy of the victim if there is no believable ongoing threat. I’d be happy to listen to why I may be wrong in this respect.

For the most part, this is an incredibly progressive look at how to treat campus assault and rape culture. Bravo to OUPD, and hopefully an ongoing dialogue continues on these matters.

Here are three pieces of media to help learn a bit more about campus sexual assault, rape, and more.

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