Ohio State treating rape cases ‘very seriously’
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 22:11
Rape isn’t taken lightly at Ohio State, but officials said reporting it can be a difficult decision for many victims.
“The university takes this very seriously,” said Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the OSU Office of Student Life.
Several rapes have been reported this academic year. A rape and a sexual imposition were reported in Park-Stradley Hall this semester, along with a rape that was reported in the Neil Avenue Building near MarketPlace. A rape was also reported in Morrill Tower on Sept. 9, according to the Ohio State Police log. The Park-Stradley and Neil Avenue cases are pending investigation, and the Morrill Tower case has been closed.
Despite the reports, Deputy Chief Richard Morman of University Police said OSU has not seen an increase in sex crimes.
According to Ohio law, rape occurs when: “The other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age, and the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age.”
“Each case is different,” Isaacs said. While the details of the cases may vary, Isaacs said, “one of our first concerns is whether the student is safe.”
Student Life offers several support offices for victims of sexual assault including medical help, counseling and consultations. Isaacs said the university covers the cost of counseling and consultation services.
“Any of our services can help a student through the process. Any one department will involve the right department … a student doesn’t need to know the right place to go,” Isaacs said.
At OSU, the privacy of the victims is “very, very important … both for legal reasons and to protect the student,” Isaacs said.
The only time anyone outside of the case and within the university will be notified of the instance, Isaacs explained, is if a student lives in a residence hall and reports the incident to hall staff. At this point, the report will be given to the hall director, and from there they are very cautious about who to involve from the outside.
If a student lives in a residence hall, he or she can work with Student Life to be moved to another location.
“It is ultimately up to the student if they want to involve the police,” Isaacs said.
Once reported, rape cases undergo a thorough investigation by OSU.
Reporting the incident to the police isn’t always an easy task. Nancy Radcliffe, sexual assault services director at the Helpline of Delaware and Morrow Counties said that when a victim does report an assault to the police, they’ve decided “they want a written record.”
For residents of Franklin County, the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) has a 24-hour free and anonymous rape hotline.
“It’s not an automatic easy decision (to report to the police). A lot of (the) time it’s someone they know,” Radcliffe said.
Last week, University Police Chief Paul Denton said that once a report is filed with the police, the officers do their best to work with any witnesses and the victim to piece together the case.
Radcliffe said that being smart about preventing rape must start before an individual is put in any situation where it could occur, and people should have a plan of how to get out of a situation ahead of time.
“Alcohol may be part of the picture, but not all of the time,” Radcliffe said. “That creepy person at the party is someone we should really pay attention to.”
But not every perpetrator will “look creepy,” she said.
If an attack occurs, victims can seek medical help at the Student Wellness Center, a hospital emergency room or with another doctor. Within 96 hours of an attack, victims can be examined and have evidence collected. According to the Sexual Violence Response Guidelines for OSU, victims can be examined at the Wellness Center and discuss concerns about sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy as well as resources and plans for follow-up care. In order for evidence to be collected victims must visit an emergency room. A police officer will be present, but the victim will not be questioned about the case unless the victim is ready.
For costs not covered by insurance, such as bus or cab fare or clean sheets, funding is available through the Sexual Violence Assistance Fund.
Stephanie Thomas, a third-year in biochemistry who is also a resident adviser in Barrett Hall, said she thinks if more students knew about the assistance available to them they might feel more comfortable using it.
“It might be embarrassing or uncomfortable to bring it up so they may be more likely to if it’s talked about more,” Thomas said.