Sexual assault at Ohio University: Where to seek help and how to help others

Going to college is a pivotal moment in most young people’s lives, and coming to Ohio University to join the “Bobcat family” is often a good experience.

But OU, like every other university in the country, is not devoid of instances of sexual assault.

While it’s important to get acclimated to campus and figure out how to get to classes, knowing options for sexual assault outreach is equally as vital to a safe college experience.

So, if you’re new to campus, here’s some important information related to sexual assault that you should know:

Where to seek help

Counseling Services at OU
A map showing the locations of the Survivor Advocacy Program and OU’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

There are several places at OU to speak to someone confidentially, get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and receive other forms of support in the event of a sexual assault.

OU's Counseling and Psychological Services is located in Hudson Hall on North Green.
OU’s Counseling and Psychological Services is located in Hudson Hall on North Green.

For starters, any OU student is able to go to Counseling and Psychological Services, located on the third floor of Hudson Hall on North Green.

Drop-in appointments are available from 9:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. every Monday through Friday, which allows students to see a counselor the same day. Sessions with a counselor are confidential, unless information in a session includes ongoing child or elder abuse or the possibility of the patient intending to cause harm to themselves or another.

Follow-up appointments with a counselor are also available, but be aware that it often takes weeks for students to book one, especially during busier times of the semester such as during finals week.

“I went to counseling for a drop-in and they talked about how booked they were and how few staff they had and I couldn’t get in, like I got to speak to a grad student,” said Emelia Douglas, a junior studying games and animation. “I couldn’t get in with an actual professional for the rest of the year and it was like a month or two ago.”

Despite the wait times, Douglas said she feels there is adequate support provided at OU for survivors of sexual assault and that she has not personally felt unsafe on campus.

Lindley Hall
Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program is located in Lindley Hall near College Green.

One such outlet for support is the Ohio University Survivor Advocacy Program, also known as OUSAP, which is located in Lindley Hall near College Green.

Prior to the 2015-16 academic year, OUSAP was the main office within the university that provided support to survivors of sexual assault at OU. Since October, however, the program has not been fully functional and was temporarily closed in November following the departure of its program coordinator.

While the university looks to refill the position for the office, students seeking confidential counseling for sexual assault have been referred to Counseling and Psychological Services, which also has licensed professionals trained to help survivors, said Laura Myers, chief of staff for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

“We do continue to have confidential services because we’re referring people to our Counseling and Psychological Services, which has drop-in hours, it has a 24-hour crisis intervention hotline,” Myers said. “So I feel like our students are being served.”

According to an email sent to students in mid-March, the program will reopen in Fall Semester and will just be called the Survivor Advocacy Program.

Medical services, such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases, are also available in Hudson Hall through OU’s Campus Care.

The university, however, does not provide rape kits, which is a DNA collection method that is typically performed soon after a sexual assault or rape. Students in need of a rape kit can find that service at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, located on 55 Hospital Drive right at the edge of West Green.

How to help others

One of the best ways to prevent sexual assault is to stay vigilant for both yourself and your friends. On-campus groups, such as Better Bystanders, offer tips to students about how to intervene at parties or other social situations if they feel a friend may be in an unsafe situation.

Those tips are available on the group’s website through the university and include some of the following methods:

  • If you think someone needs help when in a bar, tell a bartender or an employee what is happening.
  • If you’re not sure what to do in a situation you may think is unsafe, ask people around you for help. If one person does something, everyone else may follow.
  • If you don’t feel safe helping someone out yourself, don’t be afraid to call the police.

Douglas said she employs many similar methods in order to keep herself and her friends safe when at a party or other social situation.

“Every time I go out with people I always make sure I leave with the people I came with or know if they have a game plan for what they’re doing,” she said. “I always check in with them periodically throughout the night just to make sure they’re OK.”

Women’s Center discussion makes students aware of Syrian women’s struggles

Images of Syrian refugees have been strewn across the Internet for the past few months as the Middle Eastern county continues to face a civil war.

Those images, though stirring, seem far away to most Ohio University students, but an event Feb. 11 in the Women’s Center made the issue feel closer to home.

Ziad Abu-Rish, an OU associate professor of history, hosted a conversation about the challenges for Syrian refugee women as part of the Women’s Center’s “Brown Bag” discussion series.

Besides facing the hardship of leaving their native country, Syrian women also encounter a reversal of traditional gender roles and economic and food insecurity, among other issues.

“We don’t want to ignore the ways in which not only women’s roles are changing or conceptions of femininity are changing. Here women are becoming heads of household,” Abu-Rish said, explaining that oftentimes men are unable to leave with their families to other countries. “If we do the breakdown not by male and female, but we do the breakdown by men on the one hand and women and children on the other hand, we will see that three out of every five refugees or four out of every five refugees are women and children.”

A map Abu-Rish used to show the disbursement of Syrian refugees to surrounding countries in the Middle East. (Source: BBC)
A map Abu-Rish used to show the disbursement of Syrian refugees to surrounding countries in the Middle East. (Source: BBC)

In a map Abu-Rish showed during the discussion, the distribution of refugees across various Middle Eastern nations was visually represented. Of the countries accepting refugees in the region, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq have accepted the most individuals, but more than 4 million people have been displaced in total.

These displaced women, Abu-Rish said, often have little to no money and restrictive labor laws may keep them from finding employment. As a result, many women turn to sex work in exchange for money or goods. Young girls are also being married off to older men at a much higher rate than was traditionally done in Syrian culture.

“You are seeing some families who are choosing which kid to send to school because they are only accepting one kid from each family because there are limited resources available,” Abu-Rish said. Children, and especially young girls, who are not chosen to attend school are often the ones to be married off for financial reasons.

“Someone, and usually a girl marrying into a different family, will put her in a situation where she will be taken care off,” he said. “In the very real situation where staying with her mom might very well result in her not being able to eat some days not being able to get health care.”

Many of the approximately 25 students in attendance said the discussion was informative and taught them about issues they did not think were happening for Syrian refugees.

“I honestly don’t know a lot about it, which is one of the reasons I wanted to come,” said Mara Diaz, a sophomore studying communication studies and Spanish. “I definitely think these should be happening more, and I think they should be happening in classrooms.”

Brown Bag discussions are held every Thursday at noon in the Women’s Center in Baker University Center. The next event, on Feb. 18, will focus on healthy masculinities.

A great crowd for Dr. Abu-Rish's discussion on challenges for women Syrian refugees

A photo posted by Ohio University Women's Center (@ouwomenscenter) on

The barista you see every morning may remember more about you than you think

Court Street on Weekdays: All the Fun with None of the People

A mixture of smells wafts through the air. You first recognize the scent of a Wendy’s burger, then a Big Mamma’s burrito and maybe the smell of fresh baked bread from Jimmy John’s.

It’s night, but you’re surrounded by sound. A group of fraternity brothers pass by across the street speaking at levels that would surely awaken someone from their slumber. The door to a nearby bar opens and from it erupts the sound of music and the chattering of the last few patrons before the bartender makes a call for last drinks.

This is a typical night on Court Street in Athens, Ohio.

Most city residents and Ohio University students enjoy Court Street for its undying, vibrant nightlife. With about a dozen bars and several restaurants lining the span of only a few blocks, a quiet moment may be hard to come by — hard, but not impossible.

Imagine this: it’s Tuesday and the weather’s cold but not unbearable. You exit Alden Library after a long night of homework and turn onto Court Street. The clock on your cell phone reads 1:30 a.m., and as you begin your way down the brick-lined street you notice something.

The road and sidewalk on Court Street are often empty at night during the week.
Unlike during the weekend, Court Street can often be found empty on nights during the week.

It’s dead quiet.

Not only that, but not a single car is on the road, allowing you to gaze straight down and just catch the top of the old National Guard Armory where Court Street ends. You decide to walk down the middle of the road, because hey, why not? It’s not like you would have the chance to do this during the day.

As you approach the intersection you notice a green, then yellow, then red light cast down on the bricks from a traffic light above. The street is empty, the sidewalks are empty and it’s peacefully, blissfully quiet.

It may not be typical and it probably leans toward antisocial behavior, but to me, Court Street is best when no one’s around.

It’s at this rare moment that I get to take in the city I’ve grown to love, and for once I can experience it wholly on my own. When I walk down Court Street at dawn I feel more connected to the bricks beneath my feet.

I feel like Athens belongs to me.