Support victims of sexual assault

Over the last six months rape crisis advocates and sexual violence prevention experts across the state have had many important conversations in their communities about what happened in Steubenville. Several key themes emerge and unite rape crisis programs across Ohio to advocate for change at the Ohio Statehouse. On March 6, rape crisis program staff, volunteers, survivors and allies met with state representatives and state senators to address these issues that impact not just those in Steubenville, but in all communities across Ohio.

That would never happen in my community. That seems like an extreme case.

The rape of young people happens often, in every community.

Young women ages 16 to 24 face the highest rates of sexual assault.

1 in 9 teen girls will be forced to have sex and 1 in 5 young women will be a victim of sexual assault while they are in college.

Most rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the survivor.

Alcohol is never a cause of rape or an excuse for committing a crime.

Approximately 90 percent of acquaintance rapes involve alcohol.

When drugs and alcohol are involved, clear consent cannot be obtained. In Ohio, an intoxicated person cannot legally give consent.

Consent is key to prevention and is the equal approval to engage in sexual contact. The absence of “no” does not mean “yes.”

What should people do if they see something happening?

When you see something, do something. When you hear something, say something.

If you’re not in a position to safely intervene, seek help and find someone who can.

Believe the survivor.

Most rapes are not reported; survivors are often not believed and are blamed for a crime someone committed against them.

Between 92 and 96 percent of individuals reporting rape are telling the truth, which is consistent with the reporting of other crimes.

Help others understand that regardless of what someone wears, where someone goes, or what they do, no one deserves to be raped and it’s not their fault.

Social media is a powerful vehicle. When you see an offensive post, speak up and challenge the comment.

Encourage the survivor to take a screen shot of the post for evidence collection, and then remove offensive and harmful material from being distributed over the internet.

What can we do to address what happened?

Contact your local rape crisis program about bringing a prevention program to your community.

Advocate for dedicated state funding to address sexual violence by contacting your state representative or state senator. Ohio has no dedicated state funding for addressing sexual violence, yet every state surrounding Ohio does.

Create safer environments. Ask if the athletic team that you or your loved one is part of provides training on these issues. Athletic teams play an important role in preventing sexual violence, and athletes are well respected groups with the power to make a difference. While most rapes are committed by other men, most boys and men do not commit or condone sexual violence. Coaches play a critical role and have an important responsibility in modeling and encouraging non-violent relationships for their players.

Volunteer or give back to your local rape crisis program.

Finally, remember that your words and actions have an impact on survivors in your community, including those who are struggling in silence. What you say and do has the power to influence survivors in seeking the justice and healing that they deserve.

With the Steubenville trial that started March 13, OAESV invites you to learn more about these issues here. During the trial, on your social media pages, Tweet “Support Survivors #Steubenville” to show your support. Coverage of the Steubenville rape case can be overwhelming to victims. Details of the case and continuous news coverage may be traumatizing and remind victims of their own assault. To contact your closest rape crisis program in Ohio, go to or for help 24/7 nationwide, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE. For resources, call OAESV at (888) 886-8388.

Katie Hanna is executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Ohio’s statewide coalition that advocates for comprehensive responses and rape crisis services for survivors and empowers communities to prevent sexual violence.