Despite rising rape numbers at OSU, students feel safe

Chi-O Clock

Chi-O Clock on Saturday, June 15, 2019. 

Reace Downing said she always feels safe on campus, despite numbers indicating a rise in rape reports at Oklahoma State.

However, the increase in numbers – almost double from 2017 to 2018 -  isn’t due to more instances of rape, but more cases being reported, according to the vice president of student affairs.

“From a student affairs standpoint, we don’t get the sense that there has been any major change in behavior. It’s not all of the sudden things are going crazy, people are just getting more comfortable reporting to us,” Doug Hallenbeck said. “The 2018 report year would’ve been right at the tail end of the Me Too movement. Nationally, people are much more willing to come forward.”

Beyond the numbers, Downing fears being alone on campus.

“There’s almost always someone in the area, it feels like I’m never alone, so that’s comforting,” said Downing, a strategic communications sophomore.

In 2017, there were 13 total reports of rape. In 2018, that number almost doubled, with 25 reports of rape, according to the 2019 Annual Crime & Safety Report, 

Out of the 25 reports, 17 were reported to have occurred at residential facilities.

Hallenbeck said residential hall attendants are required to report cases of rape or sexual assault.

“A large number of these cases you see come from resident halls, that’s not because there’s a problem in resident halls, it’s that those are the people that are required to report,” Hallenbeck said. “Off-campus apartment complexes are not required to report anything.”

Recently, more students have been educated on the requirement to report, Hallenbeck said.[TJB1] 

“We’ve done a good job of educating people on who to report to, and how to report assaults. A lot of bystander intervention training has happened as well,” Hallenbeck said. “We do this not only to educate students about what to do if you get assaulted, but also to make sure that everybody is clear on what assault is, and how to prevent it.”

Leon Jones, OSU Chief of Police, said he was glad to know more students were comfortable asking for help.

“The increase in reports means the more students we were able to help by them coming forward,” Jones said. “Whether the victim tells the police or the campus security authority or anyone, at least we can get them the help they need to be able to move forward in life.”

Jones said most of the victims know their assaulter.

“Most of these sexual assaults are done by a person the victim is familiar with, so it makes it tough for the victim to say they want to file charges on somebody that they know, because they didn’t expect it to happen,” Jones said.

Jordan Whitwell, theater sophomore, said he wasn’t shocked by the increase.

“Being a guy, I feel safe from things like sexual assault, not that it couldn’t happen to me, but it does feel one sided when it comes to college,” Whitwell said.  “I’m not surprised by the increase, people these days seem a bit more uncontrollable, less conscious of what their actions could lead to.”

Although the numbers maybe be startling, there is an emphasis on making students aware they should feel safe reporting any crime.

 “We really want everybody to feel comfortable coming to us, because that’s what we’re here for, and we want to let everybody know that we really care,” Jones said. “No matter how minor it may seem to you, call us. Our top priority is your safety.”

news.ed@ocolly.com