Ohio Universities See an Increase in Sexual Assault Reports
Some Ohio universities are seeing a sharp increase in the number of sexual assaults reported by students. Between 2015 and 2016, Kent State saw the number of reported sexual assaults grow from 9 to 22. Over that same period, Ohio State University saw complaints jump from around 40 to over 80. Despite the sudden rise in assaults, some advocates and school administrators see it as a positive sign.
"It seems counter-intuitive, but it's actually a reflection of the reality of the problem on campus," said Alex Leslie, Senior Director of Education at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
Leslie said the recent numbers show that schools are succeeding at creating an environment where students feel more comfortable reporting sexual assault. "Think about it from the perspective of someone who's been traumatized," he said. "If they're not sure the school they go to is going to respond appropriately or adequately, then they're much less likely to report."
Likewise, Kerry Soller, who works on campus safety issues for Ohio's Department of Higher Education, said the stats from OSU and Kent State likely do not represent a significant increase in incidences of sexual violence. Rather, they represent progress in the schools' efforts to raise awareness of sexual assault and encourage students to speak up.
"They're coming out of the shadows and are no longer being silenced about what they're experiencing," Soller said.
Data about the assaults came from the schools themselves in compliance with the Clery Act. The law requires public and private colleges to release annual statistics on sexual assault. Other area schools that have released sexual assault data include Cleveland State University, which saw no change in the total number of assaults reported, and Case Western Reserve University, which posted a slight decrease.