Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

Sexual violence questions and answers. Dr. J's message for the week of 10/19/14

We take sexual violence very seriously at Ohio State, and even one case is too many. With the recent concerns and attention to this issue on campus and nationally lately, I've asked two experts from the Office of Student Life to join me for this column today. 

Natalie Spiert, Sexual Violence Support Coordinator, and Michelle Bangen, Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator, will help answer some questions about the resources available to the Buckeye community.

What can students do to help stop sexual assault?

Michelle: Students can help by being active bystanders by looking out for their friends and fellow Buckeyes. By intervening, they can prevent bad things from happening.   Student Life's Buckeyes Got Your Back (BGYB) teaches students how and when to intervene to prevent incidents of sexual violence.  They can also recognize non-consensual sex as sexual assault, take a zero-tolerance stance on all forms of sexual violence and support victims. 

Natalie: The national It's On Us campaign that Undergraduate Student Government leads on campus encourages students to stand up, speak up and engage with friends against sexual assault. You can take the pledge online. Students can help their friends understand what sexual assault is by talking about it and by breaking down the stigma around sexual assault.


What services does Ohio State provide to survivors of sexual assault? 

Michelle: There are a lot of resources available throughout the university, and we have a list of them on our website.

Natalie: I work with survivors, both male and female, who have experienced any form of sexual violence. We help students navigate the university and community resources available, providing knowledge and support regarding medical needs, university reporting procedures and community legal processes with full consideration of the emotional and physical impact of the trauma. We also assist students with academic needs that might arise after experiencing any form of sexual violence, including facilitating appropriate accommodations in the classroom, safety planning and arranging for emergency housing.

Michelle: My role is to coordinate education and support. We have many programs on campus to encourage the change in attitudes and actions needed to prevent sexual violence. Our goal is to foster a safe and respectful climate through prevention and a coordinated community response.

Natalie: In addition to the work done by Student Life's Student Advocacy Center, where I'm based, and Michelle in Student Life's Student Wellness Center, there are many other departments who provide support. Students can get personal and group counseling through Student Life's Counseling and Consultation Services. The staff in our residence halls are excellent resources, too. They are trained to provide support and arrange for students to get the help they need.

Michelle: And those are just some of the resources in the Office of Student Life.

Natalie: Elsewhere on campus, Student Legal Services has legal professionals to provide advice, representation and education to students. The Title IX Coordinator in the Office of University Compliance ensures that the university responds appropriately, effectively and equitably to issues including sexual violence. And the Wexner Medical Center provides medical care, evidence collection and drugged drink testing.

Michelle: There are also off-campus resources available to Ohio State students. The Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO) provides hospital and hotline advocates 24-hours a day. And the Buckeye Region Anti Violence Organization, known as BRAVO, provides support and services for LGBTQ survivors.

Natalie: All these resources provide a strong message: survivors do not have to face challenges alone. There is a large and dedicated network to provide the assistance and support needed.


In light of California's "Yes Means Yes" legislation, how does Ohio State view the issue of consent?

Natalie: The Code of Student Conduct defines consent as the act of knowingly and affirmatively agreeing to engage in a sexual activity. Consent must be voluntary. An individual cannot consent who is substantially impaired by any drug or intoxicant; or who has been compelled by force, threat of force, or deception; or who is unaware that the act is being committed; or whose ability to consent is impaired because of a mental or physical condition; or who is coerced by supervisory or disciplinary authority. Consent may be withdrawn at any time. Prior sexual activity or relationship does not, in and of itself, constitute consent.

Michelle: Consent is tricky and can be difficult to discuss. We teach students what consent is, what it looks like, and how to gain it...without being awkward. We want consent to be mutual and even enthusiastic. But a simple check-in with your partner can go a long way to making sure everyone is on board with what's happening.

Natalie: It is a process, which must be asked for every step of the way.  Consent is never implied and cannot be assumed even if you are in a relationship.  Ninety percent of survivors know their perpetrator.  Students must learn the importance of consent and be able to communicate it clearly and with confidence.


Does alcohol really play a role in sexual assault on college campuses? 

Michelle: It is estimated that on college campuses, as many as 85% of sexual assaults involved alcohol or other drugs. Even in cases where a survivor may have consumed alcohol or other drugs willingly, know that it is never their fault! Alcohol is the number one drug used to facilitate assault (not roofies, Molly or GHB), and perpetrators often use it to incapacitate their victims or prey on vulnerable individuals.

Natalie: It is important to remember that it is the initiator's responsibility to gain consent, and for identifying signs of substantial impairment in the other person. Being drunk is never an excuse to not get consent or to miss the signs of substantial impairment. So if a person is exhibiting any of the following, know that effective consent cannot be given no matter what a person verbalizes: Slurred speech, stumbling/unable to maintain balance, forgetfulness/confusion, vomiting (at any point in the night), passing out (at any point in the night).

Michelle: It is imperative that we intervene as active bystanders in these situations. Know what consent looks like, when it can and can't be given and intervene if a situation looks like it could lead to sexual assault.


I hope this information has provided you with a good understanding of the services available to survivors and the role we all play in eliminating sexual violence. 


Dr. J

Javaune Adams-Gaston, PhD
Vice President for Student Life


Dave Isaacs