Although statistics reveal a woman is much more likely to become a victim of sexual assault among acquaintances than by a stranger, the seemingly random assaults have opened a dialogue on campus about sexual violence in general.
"We wanted to use these recent circumstances to remind us all again that this is an ongoing issue," panelist Judy Neighbours said Tuesday to a gathering of 100 people on campus, "to use the opportunity to get out of that secrecy and out of that avoidance."
Neighbours, the sexual assault support services coordinator at OSU, and other panelists spoke about resources available on campus to prevent and respond to sexual violence.
Corvallis residents and members of the OSU community used the panel and forum discussion to suggest concrete measures, such as installing better lighting and taking self-defense courses, as well as less tangible, longer-term goals, such as dispelling myths about rape and changing a culture that encourages sexual violence.
Stephanie McClure, a graduate student who is researching prevention curriculum around dating violence, told panelists that she was concerned how the discussion after the recent attacks has been framed. Rape whistles and safety tips instructing women not to walk alone, she said, are counterproductive because they teach women to prevent their own rape instead of teaching men not to rape.
Carrie Giese, OSU sexual violence prevention and education coordinator, responded that both short-term and long-term solutions can all be part of a multifaceted approach to prevent sexual violence.
When a Corvallis resident suggested that women take basic self-defense courses, Giese responded that it's difficult to use the skills in the moment for different reasons, such as the influence of alcohol or being taken off guard. As with rape whistles, however, self-defense techniques can be used as one of many tools, she said.
"It's great as a spoke on the wheel," she said, "but not the only thing."
The attacks in Corvallis occurred on Jan. 15 and Jan. 26.
One woman had been walking on the northern end of campus near Southwest 30th Street and Campus Way at 10:20 p.m. Jan. 15, and the other was walking from her residence to the car in her driveway near Northwest 29th Street and Fillmore Avenue at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26.
In each case, they were knocked to the ground and assaulted by a stranger. They put up a fight, and the attacker ran off before causing serious injury.
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