COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Leadership at the Ohio State University says it’s working on new ways to prevent sexual violence — but what are they doing about assaults that have already happened?
NBC4’s Jamie Ostroff says the number of rapes reported on OSU’s campus has been rising for years and reported on how the university is expanding efforts to turn the trend around. That includes holding perpetrators accountable.
While some rape survivors say the accountability process can do more harm than good, changes have been made to make things a little easier.
Maeve Walsh, a 2021 OSU graduate, helped us tell the story of rapes on campus, drawing from her own experience as a survivor.
“I was sexually assaulted September 2017,” said Walsh. “I believe it was the third weekend of my time at Ohio State.“
But Walsh’s experience on the subject of sexual violence at Ohio State goes much deeper. She investigated it in a five-part series for the student newspaper The Lantern.
“A lot of my trauma, a lot of my desire to prevent sexual violence spurred me to take on this project and try to educate people at Ohio State about the issue,” said Walsh.
Walsh’s reporting shed light on what’s called the Title IX process, a set of procedures for reporting, investigating, and resolving grievances related to any type of sex discrimination.
It’s required at every school that receives federal funding. While Walsh did not report her rape, she spoke with five women who did and went through the Title IX process at OSU.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways, honestly, was just the length of time that a Title IX investigation takes,” said Walsh.
The federal rule requires schools to “include reasonably prompt time frames for conclusion of the grievance process.”
But what Walsh found: “These cases just go on months and months and months without any type of resolve.”
One case Walsh reported on took eleven months, from when the victim reported her assault, to the day of the hearing. A hearing several women told Walsh, felt more like they were the one on trial.
“Somebody that violated them—violated them physically and emotionally without consent, and then to have to face this person again across the table, many of whom had lawyers when a lot of the women who were assaulted were not –”
“They were told they didn’t need one?” asked Ostroff.
“Yes,” said Walsh.
“Learning everything that you have learned, are you ultimately glad you didn’t report your assault? Or would you have gone back and made a different decision, knowing what you know now?” Ostroff asked.
“That’s a good question. I think I am … I think I’m honestly glad that I didn’t report my assault,” Walsh said.
Since Walsh’s assault in 2018, a number of things have changed at Ohio State.
“As we’ve opened the office of institutional equity, we have continued to add staff, we’ve continued to look at ways to make the process more efficient,” said Molly Peirano, director of education and engagement at the Office of Institutional Equity.
She said the Title IX process has gotten faster since the office added staff. But ideally, the caseload would also be going down.
“We want to have streamlined services,” said Peirano. “But to your good point, we need to prevent it. And we’re trying to educate people so they can make better choices that reflect that dignity and respect for all people so that they can intervene if they see something that they know is wrong.”
According to public safety reports, 46 rapes were reported on OSU’s campus during the first 11 months of 2021. Some of the changes at OSU were prompted by reforms made nationally to Title IX guidelines last year.
Those include ensuring the complainant and respondent both have an advocate with them at hearings.
I spoke more about those reforms and the entire Title IX process with the associate executive director of the Clery Center, a non-profit that helps schools respond to crime in ways that are legal and ethical.
View Jamie Ostroff’s full interview with Abigail Boyer, Associate Executive Director of the Clery Center.
Rapes and Ohio State University
NBC4 ran a series of reports on rapes at Ohio State the week of Nov. 29, 2021: