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‘I never walk back alone:’ Students react to sexual assaults on campus

When first-year Heather Yenchesky walks around campus at night, the sexual assault bulletins that have been filling her inbox plague her thoughts.

She knew this happened at urban campuses but didn't expect them as much at Miami University. This is her new home, but she doesn't feel safe walking to her dorm at night.

Her friends have a system, an app called Life 360, that allows them to track each other. They also text when they leave, so someone will know if they don't make it home.

These are precautions Yenchesky feels are necessary to remain safe in light of the number of sexual assaults that have happened in her short time at Miami.

Eight sexual assaults have been reported in Oxford in the past three weeks. At this time last year, there were three sexual assaults reported.

Two of this year's reports described a woman being assaulted outdoors by someone she didn't know, one in Central Quad and one on Cook Field.

"[The Cook Field report] did make me uncomfortable because it's right there, and I walk past it every day," said first-year Tori Rammelsberg, who lives on East Quad. "I usually walk back with other people - it makes me feel more comfortable, and if I'm alone, I usually call someone."

First-year Liv Mullenix also plans her night with safety in mind.

"I never walk back alone," she said.

Seeing these reports can also affect those who have been sexually assaulted.

"As a survivor myself, and with lots of people that I know who are survivors, it's worrisome, and I think it makes a lot of people very frustrated, and we feel sort of helpless," said senior Viengsamai Fetters. "I, personally, do not gain anything from getting those emails every day except a sinking feeling in my stomach."

Although Fetters agrees transparency is important, they think there needs to be a way to be informative in a sensitive manner.

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"It's important if there's any sense that there's a danger to the community, of course, the university is obligated to put out the bulletins," said Jane Goestch, director of the Women's Center. "It may also be triggering for people who have a direct experience or even an indirect one."

As alarmed as first-year students were by the volume of reports, some upperclassmen are more blasé.

"It's almost to the point where it's so much that … you're kind of exhausted hearing it all the time," senior Brittany Kaiser said.

Kaiser said she has noticed an increase in sexual assaults this year, but she feels relatively safe on campus, especially because she lives off campus and has a car.

But in the meantime, first-years like Yenchesky are forced to take precautions when walking home alone.

"Just the knowledge that there have been so many sexual assaults on campus makes me kind of worried," Yenchesky said. "I didn't expect it to be so prevalent."

Miami's sexual assault resource guide can be accessed here. Along with information on the reporting process, the site offers advice on what to do if you or someone you know is sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault survivors who wish to report an incident can contact campus security enforcement, including the Miami University Police Department at 513-519-2222, the Oxford Police Department at 513-523-4321, the Coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program at 513-529-1870 and any athletic coaches, academic or student organization advisor.

If students wish to speak to a non-mandatory reporter for confidential support, they can call or text Miami's campus-based support specialists from WomenHelpingWomen at 513-431-1111.

WomenHelpingWomen is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day and is also reachable through email at MU@womenhelpingwomen.org.

More information and resources can be accessed at womenshealth.gov.

@racheldberry

berryrd@miamioh.edu

@ee_glynn

glynnee@miamioh.edu

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