COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Crime is down on Ohio State University’s campus, in all categories but one.
More rapes were reported at OSU with each passing year between 2018 and 2020, according to data made publicly available by the university.
Universities in the United States are required under the Clery Act to report crime statistics using the same standards, and publish those statistics online. Ohio State’s Annual Security Report fulfills the act. It shows 93 rapes reported to campus authorities in 2018, 118 in 2019, and 134 in 2020.
That’s excluding reports made against former OSU doctor Richard Strauss.
A personal story of sexual assault
But these reports are more than just statistics. Each one represents a person. Maeve Walsh is a recent OSU graduate. She agreed to go on record with NBC4 to talk about a difficult topic.
“I was sexually assaulted September 2017. I believe it was the third weekend of my time at Ohio State,” said Walsh. “I think I found a lot of healing in talking through this super taboo subject – something that happens to so many people – a ridiculous amount of people in Ohio State and in the world.”
Walsh’s experience colored her entire four years at the university.
“I didn’t know my perpetrator. It was at a random house party, and I had no way of identifying him,” she said. “I started seeing features of my perpetrator that were similar in other people and that was kind of – could be a trigger for me.”
According to public safety records, dozens of students report rapes to OSU campus officials each year.
Walsh was not one of those students.
“I think I carried a lot of that shame and embarrassment,” Walsh recalled. “So that prevented me from reporting it to Ohio State – reporting that to an authority figure.”
Even though the university provided resources, Walsh said she felt overwhelmed.
“I think there were like 10 to 15 different phone numbers, and I didn’t even know where to start,” she said.
OSU’s Office of Institutional Equity
Molly Peirano, Director of Education and Engagement at OSU’s Office of Institutional Equity, sat down with NBC4’s Jamie Ostroff to discuss sexual assault.
When asked if rape is a problem at Ohio State, Peirano responded, “Rape is a problem nationwide, and I hope that Ohio State can continue to do our part to change behavior. It’s obviously heartbreaking that people would have that experience, and we always say one is too many.”
OSU’s Office of Institutional Equity was created in 2019 as a centralized resource for victims of sexual assault.
“We want to increase our reporting,” Peirano said. “We’ve focused on, ‘How do we create a space where people feel comfortable to come forward, knowing there’s a lot of barriers to people reporting, to coming forward?’”
And reports are increasing.
Ostroff asked: “Are you suggesting that the numbers on the Clery Report are increasing because the number of reports are increasing, or the number of rapes are increasing?”
“The number of reports,” Peirano said. “So that means we know that people have felt comfortable coming forward, they’re willing to share that information.”
Peirano said more accurate data on rapes will help current and future victims.
“Our primary focus is to get them connected with support resources, but again, it’s also going to inform our education, our prevention,” she said.
But as Walsh can tell you, the issue is far more complicated than that.
“As nice as it would be to have exact statistics on the exact number of people who have experienced sexual violence, you can’t force someone to make a decision to go through months and months of an investigation, disclosing one of the most traumatizing experiences,” Walsh said.
Peirano and her office have put together resources for helping victims of sexual violence, and streamlined access to those resources via the OSU app.
Rapes and Ohio State University
NBC4 ran a series of reports on rapes at Ohio State the week of Nov. 29, 2021: