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.”

Why OU students need to see ‘The Hunting Ground’ ASAP

The lights dimmed on the jam-packed Athena Cinema on Court Street. As the chatter from Ohio University students came to complete silence, students were exposed to a video PSA from OU administration members. Administration gave a stern and serious warning that sexual assault on Ohio University campus is taken “very seriously” and will not be tolerated — a message that will soon be mocked in the documentary that follows it.

The mood quickly changed from serious to lighthearted as the documentary began by showing YouTube reactions of individuals across the country finding out they have been accepted to their dream school. Laughter ensued as the students likely reflected on the moment they found out they had been accepted to Ohio University. However, the laughter quickly died down. For the next hour and 45 minutes, the documentary, “The Hunting Ground,” directed by Kirby Dick, shows the dark side to college campus nightlife through tear-jerking testimonials from survivors of sexual assault and morbid statistics of this epidemic that is plaguing college campuses all over the country.

Some of the startling statistics are shown in the film’s trailer below:

The film tells the haunting tales of what is happening to college men and women at a diverse range of campuses in EVERY state. After leaving the film, there is absolutely no denying that sexual assault is happening everywhere. It’s not limited to a specific race, gender or geography.

While some question the validity of the statistics in this documentary, the film brings to light an extremely important issue. “The Hunting Ground” might just be the most important film you and your fellow college acquaintances see all year. It has thrown fuel into a fiery debate going on in our country and has ignited the conversation among students on campuses across the nation. To insure this debate continues on after viewers leave the theater, individuals are urged to keep the discussion going and speak out via social media using the hashtags #TheHuntingGround and #ItsOnUs.

A beautiful ballad used in the film, sung by Lady Gaga and created for the documentary has also taken social media by storm. The music video could be disturbing to some viewers, as it artistically depicts scenes of sexual assault.

The video now almost has almost 10 million views on YouTube, and has been used as platform for viewers to comment about their unique stories to continue the conversation and to make strides toward change in how college campuses educate students and deal with sexual assault cases. Not only is this film important, but this film has caused bonds through social media to remind survivors of sexual assault that they are not alone.

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The Hunting Ground will continue to play at the Athena Cinema through Thursday, September 24, 2015 at Ohio University. Admission is free and showtimes can be found here. The documentary will premiere in theaters in March, but the national conversation should not stop there, and the conversation at Ohio University should not stop Thursday. There is no doubt this film portrays a very real issue happening to America’s youth, and the only way it can be stopped is to continue the conversation, because it is indeed on us.