OUPD Chief Andrew Powers’ Message to the Ohio University Community< < Back to
Here is the complete letter from OUPD Chief Andrew Powers regarding the reported sexual assaults since the start of classes in August.
Dear University Community,
The Ohio University Police Department (OUPD) now has received nine reports of sexual assault since classes began this semester, two of which were reported this past weekend. Detectives made an arrest in one of the nine cases, although the charge was subsequently dropped after the victim declined to pursue the prosecution. The other cases remain under investigation. I am writing today to share factual information about these reports, and to emphasize how you can join us in combatting and preventing this type of crime. Sexual assault and rape culture are everyone’s problem and I encourage every member of our community to be a part of the solution.
RECENT REPORTS AND “CRIME ALERTS”
The recently reported sexual assaults have all involved different suspects and circumstances, but they have a number of similarities. In every case, the suspect was known to the victim and the encounter began as consensual. All but one of the incidents took place in a private residence. Two of the incidents occurred during meet ups arranged through Tinder, and most of the offenses involved alcohol consumption. Most importantly, in all of the cases, the victim reported that the assailant did not have consent to engage in sex, continued after consent was withdrawn, or engaged in conduct beyond her consent.
Despite the fact that all nine cases allege crimes, OUPD has not issued crime alerts for these offenses. It’s important to understand that crime alerts are not automatically issued every time a major crime is reported. Instead, we examine the specific facts of each report to determine if an ongoing threat to the community exists and if so, we issue a crime alert. Our decision is based on the totality of the circumstances, but among the facts we consider are whether the suspect has been identified, how unique the circumstances were to the specific people involved, whether the circumstances suggest predatory behavior or premeditation, and whether the suspect has been previously accused of similar conduct. It’s also important to keep in mind that emailing the details of a very personal crime to the entire campus—as happens when we issue a crime alert—can have a profound impact on the victim, especially when s/he knows the suspect. As a result, if the circumstances don’t suggest an ongoing threat to the community, we try to avoid creating additional stress for victims by publicizing their experience. Deciding whether or not to issue a crime alert is something we take very seriously, as protecting the safety of our community is our primary mission. While each of these cases individually did not lead to crime alerts, I am emailing you today to be clear that they happened and to emphasize prevention strategies.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT CONSENT MEANS
Having sex with someone who has not consented, either by using or threatening force, coercing their participation, or taking advantage of their inability to consent, is a crime. Regardless of whether you know the person, or are/have been in a relationship with them, sexual intimacy requires consent every time—and that consent can be withdrawn. Consent is not just the absence of “no,” it is the presence of voluntary, continuing, and willing engagement. For example, if you have sex with someone who seems reluctant, or you continue having sex with someone who pushes you off, moves away, or otherwise withdraws, you are committing a felony that could potentially result in a lengthy prison sentence. Earlier this year a group of students produced an excellent video about consent. I strongly encourage you to watch it by clicking here.
Understanding consent also involves communication and respect. For example, not everyone who uses an app like Tinder is doing so for the same reason, so be clear about your intentions, and respect other people’s boundaries. If you are communicating with someone who indicates they are not looking for sex, you should not go into a meeting with them planning to convince them otherwise. Coercing someone to have sex is a crime. Even if someone indicates an interest in sex, they have the right to change their mind at any time. Continuing to have sex after consent is withdrawn is also a crime.
YOU CAN HELP PREVENT SEXUAL ASSAULT
Everyone can help prevent sexual assault by creating a culture of intolerance for that kind of behavior. Don’t joke about sexual crimes or trivialize them, and challenge those who do. Emphasize the importance of respecting boundaries and support those who assert their personal limits. Remember the role alcohol can play in sexual assault and look after one another if you and your friends have been drinking. Also keep in mind that alcohol is not an excuse for committing a crime.
No matter how hard we try, sexual assaults still occur. In fact, national statistics suggest that as many as one in four women will become victims of sexual assault while at college, and one in six men will become victims in their lifetime. Although we are seeing an increasing number of sexual assault reports, the broader view suggests the increase is in the number of reports to police, not incidents occurring. In that sense, we are encouraged to see women and men coming forward to report crimes that may previously have gone unreported. Not only does this increase offender accountability and reduce the chances of others becoming victims, it also shines a light on those affected by sexual violence. Hopefully, that light will empower others to tell their stories. For those who are ready to take that step, Ohio University stands ready to support you. For more information on OHIO’s sexual assault support services, click here.
Sexual assault and rape culture are everyone’s problem and we all must be a part of the solution. Talk about these issues with your friends, join in campus conversations on this topic, and become part of organizations that promote efforts to end sexual violence. Let’s work together to say “not any more.”
Andrew D. Powers
Chief of Ohio University Police Department