OSU employees failed to report sexual assault, called survivors ‘delusional’

Ohio State University shuttered a campus sexual assault response center this week and fired four employees after a review revealed they failed to properly report sexual assault complaints filed by students.

The Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit, referred to as the SCE by OSU, was suspended in February after concerns came to light that it was “not properly supporting victims and was mismanaged,” according to Ohio State.

The concerns prompted a review completed on May 28, which showed the unit failed to comply with university policy in several incidents, including some that occurred off campus, in other cities and before a sexual assault survivor enrolled at the school, according to OSU. Some incidents were not reported and others were not reported to police or the university in a timely manner, the review found.

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“Ohio State will do all that we can to be a national leader in preventing and responding to sexual misconduct,” said president Michael Drake in a prepared statement. “Our campuses must be safe places for all members of our community to learn, work and grow.”

About 200 documents released to the Dayton Daily News by Ohio State this week show that several complaints were lodged against the SCE’s leadership and show that there was an internal struggle for power of the organization. Among those criticized was assistant director Natalie Spiert, who earned her master’s degree in social work from Wright State University in 2015.

Spiert compared sexual assault survivors to drug addicts and told some that they were “not ready to heal,” according to a complaint.

Jill Davis, a former coordinator at the SCE, reported in November 2016 that she had been bullied by Spiert, who at one point told her she “‘better not screw her over’ in a very assertive, threatening tone.”

Spiert told Davis that she once gave a presentation to a group of Ohio State’s coaches and kicked it off by saying that they “will not care what she says because they all will go home and beat their wives anyway.” After that incident, the athletics department told Spiert’s boss she would not be welcomed back to present again.

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Along with the accusations against Spiert, some students reported being told by SCE staff that they were “lying,” “delusional” were “suffering from a mental illness” and did not “understand their own experience,” according to complaints. Others were told they would not receive help from the SCE because they were “not deemed credible” or “would not disclose the identity of the perpetrator,” according to another complaint.

The Sexual Civility and Empowerment unit at Ohio State was opened in 2015. The unit’s closure comes just months after Gov. John Kasich asked the Ohio Department of Higher Education to re-evaluate Title IX enforcement on college campuses, a request first reported by this news organization.

To address issues stemming from the unit’s possible failures, Ohio State has hired the law firm Cozen O’Connor to create a new “best-in-class model to support victims of sexual assault.,” according to the university.

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Ohio State requires all employees to report sexual assault and state and federal laws require the reporting of sexual assault on or near college campuses. OSU officials are still investigating the unit’s issues and plans to reach out to students who contacted the unit to ensure that they have received necessary support.

“This is an immensely important issue, and Ohio State is committed to having the very best systems in place to support and protect our students, faculty and staff,” OSU provost Bruce McPheron said in a prepared statement.


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