A task force created by City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled new initiatives at a Tuesday press conference aimed at better supporting survivors and educating the community about sexual assault.
The effort, called the Task Force Reduce Campus Gender-Based Violence, involved eight months of concerned parties working together to come up with ways the city can reduce campus sexual assault and better aid survivors. Participants included the Cincinnati Police Department, University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Cincinnati Public Schools, local nonprofits, university students and sexual assault survivors.
As chair of Council's Education and Entrepreneurship Committee, Sittenfeld said he saw sexual assault as a disruption to a student's right to education.
"Last fall, Cincinnati became one of the first and only cities in the country to convene a city wide task force to address reducing gender-based violence, especially on and around our college campuses," Sittenfeld said, "and we've been developing community-specific best practices around awareness and prevention, survivor support, and policies and protocols."
Kristin Shrimplin is the executive director of nonprofit Women Helping Women and co-chaired the task force. She introduced the city-wide gender-based violence awareness campaign called, "It's On Us, Cincinnati."
Based off of the national "It's On Us" initiative created by President Barack Obama in 2014, the campaign focuses on educating and engaging the general public about gender-based violence by having people sign a pledge to make a personal commitment to help end sexual assault on campus.
"This campaign is about energizing and educating the community and surrounding students about what gender-based violence is," Shrimplin said, "how it impacts all of us and how we all have a role in ending it, and supporting those students who have already experience such violence."
Kate Lawson, chief Title IX officer for Xavier University, who also co-chaired the task force, said members also developed and launched a one-stop city web portal that will include information for survivors and the community on support services. The portal will also feature videos from task force members dispelling common myths and misconceptions associated with sexual assault.
Task Force members Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, Xavier President Michael J. Graham and University of Cincinnati Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Beverly Davenport also spoke at the conference about the importance of the new initiatives and newly established cooperation between community resources.
In recent years the prevalence of sexual assault on campus has been a growing concern nationwide for universities.
A 2015 National Sexual Violence Resource Center Report found that one in five college women and one in 16 college men will experience some form of attempted form of sexual assault as a college student.
Kristen Meyer of Oakley said when she sexually assaulted five years ago just before her sophomore year at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, the university's police department did little to support her.
"I was told this was happening every weekend on campus, and I was also told that 70 percent of rapes go unreported," said Meyer, who was visibly emotional while recounting the experience. "On top of that, I was told this process would be grueling. That's when I realized this crime is shrouded in silence, and it incriminates the victims rather than the offenders."
Meyer said the experience led to pushback from her friends and members of the small campus community. She developed severe anxiety and depression from the assault and aftermath and eventually dropped out of school.
Meyer's speech at the end of the conference was abruptly interrupted when Sittenfeld collapsed about 25 minutes into it. Medics quickly tended to him, and he said later that the incident was caused by overheating and having low-blood sugar. Sittenfeld attended other meetings later in the day.