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Recent sexual assault reports motivate responses from OU community

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Nine reports of sexual assault on campus have been reported to the Ohio University Police Department since the beginning of the semester.

In response to the reports, various OU students, faculty and staff are working to draw attention to sexual harassment on college campuses and have voiced their opinions on what they believe needs to be done in the community to prevent assaults.

In September, the Athena Cinema played The Hunting Ground, a documentary that follows sexual assault activists as they reveal a nation-wide cover up related to assaults on college campuses. Before the screening of the film, a video created by the university was shown to students explaining the support offered by OU to people who experience sexual assault.

The video featured Jenny Hall-Jones, Dean of Students and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, along with OU Police Chief Andrew Powers, OU’s Title IX Coordinator Inya Baiye and OU Survivor Advocacy Program Coordinator Delaney Anderson.

Emily O’Flynn, a first-year strategic communication major, saw the film and believed the video clip at the beginning was enough to make students feel safe.

“I think the university is currently doing the best it can to protect students by making students take programs like Haven and Not Anymore that force students to face the facts about sexual assault,” O’Flynn said. However, not all students agree with her.

The Ohio University Student Union made a video response to challenge the video clip shown at the beginning of The Hunting Ground and made several criticisms of the Ohio University administration.

“Through the past experiences of survivors, the university has made it very clear that they only take minimal efforts to convict rapists and get justice, but maximum efforts to protect the university’s image and its monetary interests,” said Student Union member Jolana Watson in the video.

Others outside of Student Union believe sexual assault is an issue on campus as well.

“If OU is truly ‘student-centered,’ it should hold as it’s highest priority the safety and well-being of all our students and investing in what’s needed to end sexual assault,” said Melissa Wales, a Women and Gender Studies professor on campus.

Student Union continued to question the intentions of the administration, pointing out that OUPD hasn’t issued alerts this semester for active threats when reports of sexual assault are made to campus police. Students in the video also said victims of sexual assault feel like they cannot come forward.

“If sexual assault is really OUPD’s top priority, why don’t you recognize that every sexual assault is a threat to our community?” said Rachel Baker, a member of F*ckRapeCulture, during the video.

In the days following the posting of the reaction video, Ohio University students received an email from OUPD updating them on the sexual assaults that have occurred on campus.

“Sexual assault and rape culture are everyone’s problem and I encourage every member of our community to be a part of the solution,” said Powers in the email to the university.

Powers also said OUPD does not issue crime alerts for every sexual assault case because not all reports may pose an active threat to the community and issuing alerts could cause further harm to the victim.

“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,” Powers said in his email. “It’s also important to keep in mind that emailing the details of a very personal crime to the entire campus…can have a profound impact on the victim, especially when s/he knows the suspect.”

Hall-Jones said she believes many people are working toward the common cause of eliminating sexual harassment at Ohio University.

“The university and our students are not on opposing sides of this issue,” Hall-Jones said. “We all want to change our culture, climate and ensure we are providing the best support possible to help survivors.”

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