“Rape rumors at Miami building up to protest”

In an October 1979 article from a Middletown newspaper, staff writer Debbie Gebolys discusses the events leading up to Miami University Oxford’s inaugural “Take Back the Night” march. Since the start of the fall semester in Oxford, there were reports of 7 to 12 attacks on female students.

Due to a policy implemented at Miami “during the campus unrest of the 1960s,” news media had to go through the university’s public relations office for any school-related information. Even routine requests for information about traffic accidents went through Miami’s office of public information. According to Gebolys, Miami students had become angry by the “‘closed-mouthed’ reception to inquiries.” Because of Miami’s lack of transparency with students and news media, rumors of sexual assaults persisted.

The Oxford Police Department and Miami’s department of safety and security said the “suspicions and reactions are unfounded.” According to Danny O’Malley, assistant director of the safety and security department, there had not been a reported rape, attempted rape, or sexual battery since January 1, 1979. Thankfully, O’Malley acknowledges that sexual violence could have occurred, but it was not reported to the local police or to Miami. In reference to the possibility of unreported sexual assaults, Oxford Police Chief Joe Statum said “our records do not show a great problem in that area.” It is safe to assume that sexual assaults were taking place in Oxford, which makes the lack of reports truly alarming and disheartening.

Frustrated with Miami’s secrecy and handling of the sexual assault rumors, the local chapter of the National Organization of Women organized the first “Take Back the Night March” in Oxford. The march included a walk uptown and around campus.

Gebolys also interviewed Susan Stonestreet, director of the campus crisis intervention center, Together, Inc. According to Stonestreet, even though students had a “heightened awareness of the possibilities of rape in Oxford,” there was not an increase in counseling contacts for victims. Instead, the center saw an increase in questions and requests for information.

It is both frustrating and sad to read a newspaper article from several decades ago and realize the same issue still occurs. Today, the majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Victims have different reasons for not reporting, but it is typically because of self-blame or guilt, shame and embarrassment, fear of retaliation, and/or a lack of trust in the criminal justice system (NIJ). Because victims are often not believed or are made to feel guilty about the situation, it makes sense that people do not want to report. Also, 3 out of 4 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, which makes the fear of retaliation even more understandable (RAINN).

Sunday, October 2, 2016