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Editorial: Reporting on sex crimes is necessary, difficult

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There have been nine rapes reported on Ohio State’s campus this academic year – from the end of August until the end of March, nine reported rapes.

And that doesn’t even include the sexual impositions, harassments and other incidences that for some reason don’t get reported to police.
The Lantern has been doing its best to report on these cases fairly, accurately and respectfully. Our reporters and editors have been in contact with representatives from Sexual Violence Education and Support in the Student Wellness Center to be sure that our reporting is nothing but accurate and respectful.
We use the official wording from the police reports on the incidences to make sure they are reported as accurately and unbiased as possible. We work with police and investigators as we report, to avoid any confusion and speculation.
In other words, we’ve been doing our job, fully reporting what is reported on this campus. We’ve received letters to the editor about our coverage of alleged rapes. We’ve gotten emails, phone calls, comments on stories and more. Most of those have been concerns for the survivors, concerns that we are aware of and often have ourselves. But those concerns are precisely what keep us reporting.
The Lantern has an obligation to inform OSU’s students about what’s happening on this campus, be it good, bad or terribly ugly. We report the news so students can be aware that these crimes are being reported in the neighborhoods they live in, on the streets they walk down, and sometimes, in the dorm room down the hall.
Students must be made aware so they can take extra steps of precaution, whether they’re looking out for themselves or for friends. It isn’t easy to report on these cases. These survivors and suspects are often our peers, too, and could just as easily be our friends. But as a news organization, we have a duty and obligation to tell the truth about what’s happening in the dark. We have a duty to bring the delicate yet important issues to life.
Furthermore, alleged criminals need to be held responsible. Oftentimes, if The Lantern doesn’t report on these cases, no one else will. No other daily publication has such a focus on OSU. But The Lantern does not convict anyone, it simply reports what is known and what people are willing to share.
Our society has begun to place a great concern on victim blaming, and some of our readers have voiced similar worries. But The Lantern has no such intentions. During the reporting process, we reach out to the survivors and give them an opportunity for their voice to be heard. If they wish to remain anonymous, that is their choice.
President E. Gordon Gee visited the newsroom March 25 for a meeting with our editorial staff and addressed the issue. He said a culture should be created in which rapes are dealt with and not tolerated.
“We are always monitoring that very carefully and making certain that we as an institution are protective of our students, that we’re protective of each other, that we have policies not only that go to the issue itself but also in which we created a good culture where those kind of things are reported, not tolerated,” Gee said.
Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said the university itself offers support to those involved in sexual violence.
“Student Life’s Student Wellness Center offers a great deal of support to those involved in sexual violence, including the Sexual Violence Education and Support team, as well as counseling and support through Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service,” he said. “Student Life’s Student Advocacy Center also provides support and assistance for those involved.”
We do our job with respect to the survivors and other affected parties in these cases. We work closely with administration and law enforcement to ensure accuracy. But we refuse to shy away from a sensitive subject.
 

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