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
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.
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.
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.”