Home Campus “What Were You Wearing” exhibit brings additional awareness to sexual assault on campus

“What Were You Wearing” exhibit brings additional awareness to sexual assault on campus

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An art exhibit highlighting what people were wearing during their assault has made its way to Athens at a time the campus has faced multiple reports of sexual assault.

The Trissolini Gallery in Baker University Center is hosting “What Were You Wearing” — an exhibit focused on sexual assault survivors — while the university reels from five recent sexual assaults reported in Athens.

The exhibit, which is supported by the Ohio University Women’s Center, the Survivor Advocacy Program (SAP), the Campus Involvement Center, and others, focuses on what survivors were wearing when they were assaulted.

The dates for the exhibit, Aug. 30 through Sept. 13, fall squarely into the “red zone,” a six-week period where students are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network. More than 50 percent of college sexual assaults happen between August and November, RAINN reported.

Kimberly Castor, the director of the SAP, emphasized that the timing of the exhibit was intentionally placed in the “red zone”.

“It’s not a coincidence that it’s happening right now in the first couple weeks of school,” Castor said. “It would’ve been a lot easier for us to wait and do it later in the semester but we knew that this was when it needed to happen and this was when it’s very important that people hear these messages.”

Since the exhibit has lined the walls of Trissolini, the campus has been reacting to three crime alerts sent out by Ohio U Police Department about suspects wanted for rape. Athens Police Department also received reports of two sexual assaults; OUPD did not issue a alert for these crimes as they did not occur on campus.

OUPD Chief Andrew Powers and APD Chief Tom Pyle said in a joint statement that detectives are investigating these crimes and there would be increased patrols in the area near Mill Street were these crimes were reported.

The statement was released nearly a day before a crime alert was sent out on Wednesday about a rape report OUPD received from O’Bleness Hospital.

An increase in reports, however, does not correlate an increase in crime, Lt.Tim Ryan, OUPD’s public information officer, said

“We think — specific to sexual assaults — that there’s an uptick in reporting rather than occurrence,” Ryan said.

Under the Clery Act, Ohio U is required to release annual reports on campus crime. There were 32 rapes reported on campus in 2016, up from 20 reported in 2015 the 19 reported in 2014, according to the 2017 Annual Security Report.

Geneva Murray, the director of the Women’s Center, stressed that while college campuses are often perceived as hotbeds for sexual misconduct, sexual assault is not exclusive to campuses.

“We’re not an anomaly, right?” Murray said. “This is pervasive on so many levels throughout our nation and throughout our globe.”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men in the U.S. experience a form of physical sexual violence in their lifetime. On college campuses, over one in four undergraduate women and one in 18 undergraduate men report being raped or sexually assaulted through physical force, violence, or incapacitation, according to RAINN.

The Campus Involvement Center’s Health Promotion initiative hosts a variety of programs focused on bystander intervention and sexual assault prevention. But staying informed isn’t enough, Mathew Hall, the assistant director of Health Promotion, said.  

“It has to be more than understanding. It has to be more than a philosophy,” Hall said.  We know … on an average day that about 82 percent of our respondents to our surveys say that, ‘I get it, I understand what bystander intervention is, I know why it’s important’, which is really exciting. But then when we ask, ‘Have you intervened?’, the answer is about 50 percent yes. And so there’s this disparity between belief and action.”

In addition to university and police efforts to combat sexual assault on campus, Ohio U students are taking action. Student Mary Ryznar created a “Safe Walk Home” group chat for women on campus who may need someone to walk them home.  

At the time of publication, the group chat was at max capacity with 1000 members.

Castor emphasized that if students need support, they can visit the SAP in Lindley Hall, or they can email them at [email protected].

“We want to make sure that people don’t feel as if they have to go through these things alone,” Castor said.

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