Ohio AG pledges $3 million to combat college sexual assaults

COLUMBUS — A cultural mindset that leads to sexual assaults must be changed, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Wednesday as he announced a $3 million competitive grant program to help colleges and universities improve services for campus sexual assault victims.

Too often, investigations done by his office reveal a basic lack of understanding about the definition of rape, DeWine said. Education must also emphasize that alcohol consumption can render people incapable of consenting to sex, he said.

The goal is to improve both the reporting of sexual assaults on campus and to keep it from happening in the first place, DeWine said.

“Campuses are not separate enclaves. They are part of the state of Ohio,” DeWine said at a news conference at Columbus State Community College. “And victims deserve rights whether on that campus or not.”

The grants will help colleges and universities — public or private — line up their services for victims with similar services available in the community. Ohio’s police training academy is also offering a new round of advanced training to campus professionals on investigating college sexual assaults, DeWine said.

It’s crucial that bystanders, whether friends of a victim or of a perpetrator, report abuse, DeWine added.

Too often, sexual assault victims suffer in silence, and often students who’ve been attacked don’t know their rights under law, said Katie Hanna, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

“The aftermath of rape can hamper both their educational attainment and future employment for victims of these crimes,” she said.

DeWine said he wasn’t focusing on statistics of assault in Ohio, saying he considers them suspect. In 2013, Ohio campuses reported 242 sexual assaults under a federal law requiring such reporting, up from 227 in 2012 and 195 in 2011.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center says one in five women will be the victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in college, and nine of 10 will know the perpetrator. More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on campus don’t report the incident, according to the center.