The beginning of a college student’s first semester, known as the “red zone,” is recognized across college campuses as a time when female students might be at an increased risk of becoming a victim to sexual assault.
But there might be other periods of risk that are not covered within the red zone time frame that stretches from the first day on campus until Thanksgiving break, said Bill Flack, an associate professor of psychology at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
Since 2007, Flack has been conducting annual surveys on college campus sexual assault.
“All campuses should be doing climate surveys,” he said. “Not that local numbers are perfect, but they are local and they tell you something about what’s going on on your campus.”
And Ohio State is no exception.
In the 2013 Annual Campus Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Report put out by the OSU Department of Public Safety, there were 21 reports of forcible sexual offenses on OSU’s campus in 2012. Twenty-eight were reported in 2011.
The most recent aggregated crime data is set to come out this week, University Police Chief Paul Denton said Friday.
This past weekend alone, there were three separate reports of sexual assault on or near OSU’s campus, sparking two public safety notices. The first notice was issued Saturday after a female OSU student reported she was raped to University Police on Saturday morning. She said the attack took place earlier that day in a South Campus residence hall. Police later said the suspect was not affiliated with OSU and is no longer on campus.
The second notice was issued Sunday after two women reported in separate incidents they were sexually assaulted off-campus. The first occurred Saturday evening when a female non-OSU affiliate later reported a possible sexual assault at East 15th Avenue and North Pearl Street. The second incident occurred later that night, when a female OSU student later reported a sexual assault in the area of East 12th Avenue and North Pearl Street.
There have also been two other public safety notices issued so far this year for sexual assault-related incidents.
Flack said while national numbers help inform universities of the potential sexual assaults happening on campuses, individual universities should not assume that their campuses follow the national trends when it comes to sexual assault.
About 28.5 percent of women reported experiencing an attempted or completed sexual assault before they graduated, according to data published in the “Campus Sexual Assault Study” in December 2007, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“That should just not be OK,” said Flack in response to the study.
Although victims of sexual assault are disproportionately women, men are still at risk, Flack said.
“Certainly we know that men do get raped,” he said. “The best method for surveying is (keeping it) gender-neutral. That’s why anonymous surveys are important to do.”
Alcohol consumption and inexperience in a college environment contribute to the risk of sexual assault, Flack said. There are times during the academic year that are more prone to increased numbers of sexual assaults, he said, and depending on alcohol use and other activities, some organizations, including Greek life, can pose a greater risk of increased sexual assaults.
“Rush is often associated with a great deal of alcohol consumption,” Flack said.
Flack said there are some things researchers need to look for as well.
“Research has to be informed by students who are participating in campus student culture,” Flack said. “It’s students who know what’s going on and you have to know what’s going on in order to know what questions to ask.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Celia Wright said under-reporting sexual assault is a problem.
“To get a clear climate of what we have at OSU, we need to get more accurate reporting,” said Wright, a fourth-year in public health.
And although each college is different, the sexual assaults reported at OSU are significantly less than nationwide data would predict, Wright said.
“I think some of the reason for that is that people don’t know exactly what rape is,” Wright said.
She said USG is working on new initiatives — such as increasing the number of people at the university who handle sexual assault — to combat the issue on OSU’s campus. USG also plans to institute a training program required within freshmen survey courses for all incoming students. The course would cover the definition of consent in the Code of Student Conduct, Wright said.
Regardless of the USG initiatives, Wright said OSU has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to combating sexual assault.
“We currently have two employees that deal with anything to do with sexual assault,” she said. “It’s totally unreasonable to expect two people to be responsible for a student body our size.”
Wright was referring to two women who comprise OSU’s staff for sexual violence and education support in the Student Wellness Center.
One student said she was supportive of the USG initiatives.
“I think it’s very important,” said Emily Grucza, a first-year in biology. “Train student leaders and people who have a trust built up with their peers.”
Wright said that she feels a sense of responsibility as one of the first female presidents elected to USG.
“I think it’s time we’ve addressed this issue,” Wright said. “It’s a really good time for this, in the nation and at OSU.”
About 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
OSU provides services for victims of sexual assault that include counseling, advocacy, wellness and health services through Student Life.