Ohio State Disbands Sexual Assault Center Amid Controversy, Investigations

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Ohio State University has closed its Sexual Civility and Empowerment division following allegations that its staff had blamed and openly doubted students who claimed they’d been victims of sexual assaults.

The announcement follows four separate complaints and comes as independent auditors review the division’s practices to determine if the university complied with federal and state laws regarding reporting sex offenses to law enforcement and the Department of Education, reports the Columbus Dispatch.

Four employees who worked in the division have also been fired in conjunction with its closure.

The OhioHealth Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio, or SARNCO, alleged in one complaint that staff members in the division told some victims they were lying or delusional, suffering from a mental illness, had an active imagination and didn’t understand their own experience.

SARNCO also alleged that victims were told they wouldn’t receive support from the division because they weren’t credible, were not “ready to heal” and because they would not disclose the identity of the perpetrator.

A former employee in the division has also said she was frequently discouraged from working with the Title IX office, Student Conduct, the Health and Wellness Center and Counseling and Consultation Services.

Now the university is reviewing all of its Title IX practices and has engaged with Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen O’Connor to evaluate its policies.

“Ohio State will do all that we can to be a national leader in preventing and responding to sexual misconduct,” Ohio State President Michael V. Drake said in a statement. “Our campuses must be safe places for all members of our community to learn, work and grow. We remain steadfastly and unwaveringly committed to this goal.”

The university had suspended the Sexual Civility and Empowerment division in February following an internal review.

Following the closure, nearly 60 student organizations called for a centralized resource for sexual violence survivors on campus.

Ohio State President Michael V. Drake has since assured students that university officials remain committed to responding to sexual violence. University officials say students can still receive support from the university’s Counseling and Consultation Service, Student Advocacy Center, Student Wellness Center and Student Health Services, as well as SARNCO and the Mount Carmel Crime and Trauma Assistance Program.

The Sexual Civility and Empowerment division had been created in 2015.

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