Prevention or Reaction: Fighting Sexual Assault on College Campuses

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Recent protests at Ohio University have reignited outrage against sexual assault on college campuses. According to an article by NBC News, protesters were demanding students “to do more to call out predatory behavior” and to support the victims of assault.

Since late August of this year, OU and Athens police departments have received a combined twelve reports of sexual assault. The administration at OU claims to be working with students to create a safer campus, says NBC.

UC’s Title IX office – named after the federal civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination based on sex in higher education and college admissions – defines sexual violence as, “physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the person’s use of drugs or alcohol.”

The University of Cincinnati’s 2018 Annual Crime and Fire Safety Report recorded twenty-one reports of sexual violence and nine reports of stalking in 2017. UC Clermont reported no incidents of sexual violence for the same year, although one incidence of stalking was reported in 2016.

While these statistics may seem to suggest that sexual violence is a rare and limited occurrence, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported. According to data cited by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.”

The NSVRC’s website also states that “27% of college women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact.”

A study by the United States Department of Justice corroborates these claims. According to the study, due to a lack of understanding about the legal definition of rape and a belief that they are somehow to blame, many victims do not characterize their assault as a crime.

The DOJ study was conducted through phone interviews with 4,446 college attending women in 1997. This research found that there is an average of thirty-five rapes per every 1,000 college women each year. Additionally, more than one-third of those surveyed experienced unwanted sexual contact.

This study also concluded that thirty-five percent of attempted rapes occurred on a date and that “about 9 in 10 offenders were known to the victim.” Less than five percent of rapes were reported to authorities as many victims didn’t believe that the assault was serious enough to report.

Even more prevalent than sexual assault on college campuses, the DOJ study found that about half of respondents were subject to sexually explicit remarks.

“I think there’s still a lot of hesitancy,” said Jenn Radt – Senior Director of Student Affairs and Deputy Title IX Coordinator for UCC – referring to the apprehension of victims to report sexual assaults to the authorities.

As part of her position with UC’s Title IX office, Radt works to provide education about Title IX issues to the UCC campus community. She also works informally with victims of assault to inform them about their options for reporting, although she warns that any information shared with the office will be automatically reported to the university.

According to Radt, the adoption of a Title IX office is “still relatively new to higher education.” Although UC’s Title IX office has been in a state of fluctuation since its inception in 2014, she cited positive changes since the recent introduction of the office’s first director.

Radt also stressed that while the Title IX office offers recourse to victims of sexual assault, it has to approach allegations of assault from the perspectives of all parties involved.

When asked about the importance of increasing education on sexual violence Radt said, “That’s an area, certainly, where we have a lot of room to grow.”

Ultimately, Radt would like the university to take a more proactive approach toward sexual violence, saying that, “addressing these types of situations is a great way to keep the community safe.”

Considering that reporting is only an option after an assault has occurred, what kind of proactive measures can be implemented in an effort to prevent the assault in the first place?

“If someone sees what is, what could be, or what could become gender-based violence, I would encourage them to be a pro-social bystander and intervene in some way,” said Brandy Reeves – director of UC’s Student Wellness Center.

The SWC advocates for bystander intervention as an effective means of sexual assault prevention. “Anything that someone can do to stop the situation is a good thing,” exclaimed Reeves.

According to their website, the SWC – located in the Steger Student Life Center –  “empowers students to make informed decisions regarding their health and wellness by providing evidence-based education, inclusive resources, and non-judgmental support.”

“One of our biggest challenges is trying to reach as many students as possible,” said Reeves. “That’s why we try to utilize online training and social media, in addition to the in-person programs we do.”

Even if an assault has already occurred, Reeves says that simply “Supporting the survivor by offering resources or lending a caring ear can go a long way.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please use these resources to report:

  • UC’s Title IX office: (513) 556-3349
  • UC Public Safety: (513) 556-4900

For further support, please contact:

  • Women Helping Women: (513) 556-4418
  • Compass Counseling Center: (513) 732-5263
  • UC Student Wellness Center: (513) 556-6124

 

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About Author

Quinlan is a staff writer for the UC Clermont Lantern: he joined The Lantern in 2018. Quinlan enjoys reading, listening to music, and discussing current events. A sophomore majoring in liberal arts at UC Clermont, Quinlan plans on transferring to UC main campus in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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