Women Against Rape (WAR) - 1972 - 1996
Women Against Rape (WAR) was founded in 1972 as an extension of the Women Action Collective (WAC). WAC was formed in 1971 and consisted of various groups and programs such as Women Against Rape, Gorman Rape Crisis Center (RCC), Support Groups, Rape Prevention Workshops, Shelter House Workshops, Whistle Alert, Self Defense, and Confrontation Training, Fan the Flames Feminist Book Collective, Reproductive Rights Task Force, and Lesbian Peer support to list a few.
Even though it was not an official campus organization, WAR had influenced a major portion of the anti-rape activism that appeared on OSU’s campus. The safety concerns of 1969 showcase what most likely set the stage for WAC’s and WAR’s conception in the early 1970s. Issues such as serial rapists, lack of bus accessibility, and poor lighting were the main concerns of 1969. Students and the surrounding community were frustrated with the lack of concern for students’, especially “coeds’” [read: women’s] safety. WAC and WAR appear to be a response to this apparent unresponsiveness of OSU in regard to the safety of their students.
WAC and WAR’s philosophy was grounded in what would then be considered radical feminism, including an emphasis on direct action, which included marches, protests, educational meetings to counter myths, and self-defense classes.
During the 1970’s WAR, and its umbrella group WAC, worked toward implementing multiple systems of support for survivors. WAR participated in OSU's first-ever Women's Week in 1972. They worked on promoting a whistle program as a way to enable resistance but also alert others to one’s own distress. In collaboration with the Rape Education Project, WAR planned to implement a “rape crisis phone service by February 1st ,” since there was no rape crisis service in Columbus at that time. One of WAR’s most ambitious endeavors was creating a Rape Crisis Center and a safe house community system. In addition to working on local issues, WAR and WAC also engaged with more national discussions. WAR and WAC assisted Ohio’s National Organization of Women (NOW) to raise funds for the JoAnne Little Defense Fund in 1975. WAR members also participated in the federally funded study "Project Court Watch" in 1978 that found that rape penalties were rare. By 1977, WAR had strong support on OSU’s campus, and it is estimated that there were about 40 members who were OSU students. On October 25, 1977, WAR sponsored a 500-person rally in collaboration with Central Ohio Lesbians after a lesbian woman was gang-raped on The Oval.
WAR continued their activism throughout the 1980s. In the aftermath of the Feb 22-23, 1983 incident in Steeb Hall (also known as “Steebgate”), WAR, alongside other women’s groups, helped advise OSU’s President Jennings on the new rape education project (which would become the Rape Education and Prevention Program) and possible workshops slated for Spring 1984. WAR worked with the Office of Women’s Services to help recommend services to students. WAR also sponsored numerous “Take Back the Night” events from 1978 through the 1980s.
Into the 1990s, WAR and the Rape Crisis Center did not have enough funds or engagement to continue and closed their doors in 1996. However, WAR’s most noteworthy initiative, the rape crisis phone service, and survivor-centered advocacy lived on. After the Gorman Rape Crisis Center closed, calls from WAR’s hotline were redirected to Riverside Methodist Hospital. Riverside Methodist Hospital is a part of OhioHealth, a nationally recognized healthcare system, which is an outreach of the United Methodist Church. OhioHealth organized the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO), which provides a 24/7 sexual assault helpline, 24/7 emergency room advocacy, and aftercare advocacy. Since Autumn of 2019, SARNCO’s campus advocacy program has had an office at 33 W 11th Ave, Columbus within the Kirwan Institute for The Study of Race and Ethnicity. Originally, SARNCO’s campus advocacy program consisted of two coordinators that work specifically to provide confidential support for OSU’s students, staff, faculty, and visitors for free; however, due to a loss in grant funding in the Autumn of 2020, there is now only one SARNCO campus advocate dedicated to OSU – Emily Gemer. SARNCO’s services are the closest rendition of WAR’s rape crisis center and hotline initiatives to date in Columbus, Ohio.