Editor’s note: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers.
An alleged sexual assault that took place in front of numerous students during Ohio University’s homecoming celebrations this weekend has led to serious questions about why witnesses reportedly snapped pictures and recorded video instead of stepping in to help the victim.
What’s worse is that these images were subsequently shared on social media. The female victim, who received oral sex, reportedly did not realize what had happened to her until she saw photos online the following day. She reported the incident to police in Athens, Ohio on Sunday, the Daily Mail reported.
Social media messages appear to confirm that multiple witnesses observed the alleged assault, which is said to have occurred on Court Street — just one block away from the police station.
According to Business Insider, a police report indicates that the woman, a student, is 20 years old; the event happened off campus and that the student did not know her alleged attacker; he is listed as a stranger on the report. The report also indicates that alcohol was involved, though additional details are not immediately available.
Many in the community have expressed outrage that no one stopped to help the young woman.
“Some of us are really angered and disappointed that no one intervened and they just filmed it,” Allie Erwin, a senior at Ohio University who runs an anti-rape group, told Metro. “Their first impulse was to share it on social media and make a mockery of something that was probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to her.”
University police Chief Andrew Powers expressed similar dismay over the role that social media played in the aftermath.
“What is more disturbing are the social implications of what it means for someone to have been standing there watching this thing happen, videotaping it with their phone instead of getting involved and trying to help the victim,” he told campus newspaper The Post.
Some of the Twitter and Instagram accounts that posted images of the alleged attack have now been deleted. BuzzFeed has collected (content warning: graphic) some of the videos and images.
A Twitter account called “OU Confessions” that documents anonymous campus happenings tweeted a number of messages about the particular incident, before a post on the account Tuesday read, “OUConfessions will be out of service for the next week due to a recent homecoming incident. I’ll be back next Sunday. Have a good week.”
The matter is under police investigation, and while the photos and video will factor in, officials warn they provide only one perspective and that additional investigation is needed.
“A lot of times you get some piece of evidence that’s the ‘smoking gun’ when in reality that leads you to something else that makes you question something else you thought was an absolute, positive truth and maybe it’s not,” Athens Police Captain Ralph Harvey said.
The university has indicated that officials there are aware of the situation, with Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi issuing a statement of support for the investigation being conducted by the Athens Police Department.
“We are following our university policy and procedures in responding to this situation and most importantly, are using all of our available resources to provide support to the student who filed the report,” Lombardi said.
(H/T: Daily Mail)