The investigation of a reported rape in an Ohio State residence hall led University Police to issue a public safety notice Friday.
Recent information about the rape, which allegedly happened in “the early morning hours” of Jan. 25, and the suspect – who reportedly returned to the residence hall – caused police officers to believe there is a “continuing threat,” the notice read.
The suspect was described by witnesses as a black man with a “wide” build, between 18 and 20 years old and standing between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 9 inches. He has short, black hair and a lighter, pockmarked complexion, with scars “over most of his face,” including a possible scar over an eyebrow, and was last seen wearing a Cincinnati Bengals sweatshirt, according to the notice.
It is unknown whether the suspect is an OSU affiliate, University Police Chief Paul Denton said Friday. The suspect’s return to the residence hall was not this week, but Denton said the forensics reports from the initial incident came back this week, which was partly what led to the decision to release a public safety notice.
He said the residence hall staff is “on board and aware” of the investigation.
Denton added that sexual assault is an issue University Police takes seriously.
“We want to be very certain before we put out information,” he said. “We have to establish the facts of what happened before sending out a public safety notice … (The) facts to the best of our knowledge.”
The notice advised anyone with information about the suspect to contact University Police.
The case is still being actively investigated as part of “a wide-ranging and in-depth criminal investigation,” the notice said.
University spokesman Doug Haddix said signs will be posted on residence hall buildings.
“University Housing staff are reminding residents to exercise caution and follow building access policies. Signage is being posted at hall entrances and resident advisers are communicating directly with students on their floors,” Haddix said in an emailed university statement. “In addition to our highly trained law enforcement officials, the university’s residence hall staff and other staff members are trained to recognize, identify and respond to signs of sexual harassment and assault.”
The statement also included the resources available for students who have been sexually assaulted.
“When an incident is reported, the Ohio State Police Division immediately begins a rigorous investigation,” Haddix said. “(Students) are encouraged to report cases of sexual harassment and assault and to take action if they have reason to believe someone else is being or has been assaulted. Survivors of sexual assault are provided a wide variety of support and services including Student Life’s counseling, advocacy, wellness and health services, the Sexual Violence Education and Support team and financial assistance through the Sexual Violence Assistance Fund.”
Five rapes have been reported on OSU’s campus since the start of the academic year, all of which are listed as “investigation pending” on the University Police daily log.
About 237,870 people are sexually assaulted each year in the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network website.