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Onlooker details alleged Court Street rape
Editor’s note: This article includes graphic descriptions that might be disturbing to some readers.
As part of an ongoing investigation regarding an alleged rape, Athens Police confirmed Wednesday they have seen a video, taken Saturday, of a man performing oral sex on a female Ohio University student in front of an Uptown Athens bank.
Athens Police have yet to charge anyone in the incident, which now includes an investigation into an assault on the man whom the woman reported raped her in the early morning hours of Saturday.
The video is 1 minute 27 seconds in length and shows the man, whom authorities could not confirm to be an OU student, penetrating the woman with his fingers and performing oral sex on her. She was propped up against the exterior of Chase Bank, 2 S. Court St.
The Post has obtained a copy of the video from the same source that provided it to the Athens Police Department.
The footage shows the woman flipping her hair while the man is on his knees. She puts her hand on the back of the man’s head. The female student, who would later file a rape complaint with APD on Sunday, looks at the camera multiple times but does not appear to speak.
People at the scene can be heard in the video expressing shock to the situation.
One onlooker can be heard saying, “How can you not film this?”
Someone else said he would knock the guy out cold.
Another said: “That is literally f--ked up that you’re pulling her vagina out right here. You’re a slut. Should we start a line right here?”
The man paused, took his face out of the woman’s crotch and responded: “I’m a big whore, you know that.”
Vance Blanc, a freshman studying business, said he saw the entire event unfold and took pictures on his phone. Fellow onlookers were in shock but seemingly unconcerned about whether what they were watching was consensual, he added.
The woman told police the man involved was a stranger, according to the report.
“My friend and I were walking up Court Street,” he said. “We saw them at Chase Bank. Crowds of people came. I know rumors said 10, but there were way more than 10… Twenty, 30 people just crowding around.”
It just seemed like an odd place, Blanc said.
“It was obvious that both the man and woman were very, very drunk,” Blanc said. “I guess the thing that put everyone there at ease was that she never said stop, she never struggled and she never asked for help. She put her hand on the back of his head. She seemed like she was enjoying it, so I guess for everyone there it was like ‘OK, it’s not assault. It’s not rape.’”
Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said the department is focusing on consent in this incident because Ohio law states that one isn’t able to give consent for sex if they’re at all impaired, which includes being intoxicated.
“It’s a difficult situation when it involves alcohol and there is the burden of proof,” Pyle said. “You have to be able to prove in court. We do it in a variety of ways, and whatever method we can find to do that, we will utilize.”
He said no arrests had been made as of around 3 p.m. Wednesday, adding that the department is also looking into an assault on the man accused of rape.
As Blanc described that event, two guys wanted to fight the man for what he had done to the woman. He said the two men proceeded to beat the man and then ran off.
As Blanc recalls, 15 to 20 minutes later, the man and woman shown in the video walked past Blanc as he sat in front of Wendy’s, 40 S. Court Street — less than a block away from the Chase Bank.
“The guy had blood all over his face and my friend had asked if he was OK,” Blanc said. “He responded and said he was fine. The two of them walked into some apartment and that was the last we saw of them. They walked into the same building.”
Blanc said he doesn’t know either of them personally. He said he only saw the backs of the heads of the two guys who allegedly attacked the man.
Blanc said the man seemed to love the attention, but the woman was not talkative.
“She really was quiet,” he said.
Police also said she wasn’t talkative when she made her initial report, Blanc said. He filed his own statement with police after a picture he posted online was blasted all over the Internet.
Athens and OU were the subject of news reports from coast to coast Wednesday when the Associated Press wrote an article that appeared on newspapers’ websites, including The Washington Post, USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I had told (authorities) I posted a picture, and it kind of got swept aside,” Blanc said. “I really hope I don’t (get in trouble); I don’t know what I could be charged with. It scares the crap out of me.”
The news crossed international borders, too. An article posted online Wednesday by the Daily Mail, based in Great Britain, focused on the picture Blanc posted and called him “heartless.”
He recapped what was going through his mind before, during and after he took and posted the photo.
“Before I took the picture, it was like … I’ve never seen anything like that,” Blanc said. “People were around taking videos, and I was like, ‘I want to get a picture of this.’ I was an idiot. I put the picture up. I have to own up to that. I put it up because it had shock factor. It was something I’d never seen before. It was never meant to embarrass or harm anyone.”
After he tweeted the picture, it was retweeted by @Athens_Tonight, where it proceeded to go viral. Screenshots of an Instagram video of the incident also circulated online.
“I didn’t know if they knew each other,” Blanc said. “I thought maybe they were a couple and they were drunk doing their thing on Court Street. I feel like if I would’ve known it was that serious, I never would’ve put anything up in the first place.”
He added that he doesn’t condone rape or sexual assault.
“That’s ridiculous to think that anybody would support any of that,” Blanc said. “Where the problem comes in is alcohol. Obviously, alcohol was a big part of this.”
Asked what he’d do if he could relive that Homecoming night, Blanc said he would handle the situation differently.
“I’ve asked for that to happen so many times, just to do this all again,” Blanc said. “I couldn’t say I’d completely avoid it, because something like that is impossible to avoid, but why do I need to post a picture? Why do I need to share it with the world?”
Pyle called this case a first for his career. He said he can’t remember another time when an Athens investigation received this much national attention.
“I honestly cannot remember one that brought the complexities that this has because of the social media aspect, the intense public and media interest,” he said.
He added that it’s hard to say when the case will be resolved.
“We have ... some internal expectations (of when the investigation will be resolved) that we discussed in the last several days,” Pyle said. “Sometimes these things are never resolved. Sometimes it takes a matter of weeks, sometimes it’s 24 hours.
“There is no way to gauge these individual cases,” Pyle said.