ATHENS -- It is the photo that started a firestorm.
It shows a young woman against the window of a bank. A man kneels in front of her. Along with the person taking the photo, there is at least one other bystander visible.
A police report says the female student reported nonconsensual sexual conduct with a man on a street near campus between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday.
Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle is trying to determine exactly what happened at the corner of Court and Washington streets.
He says the photos and a video that were posted on social media are equal parts offensive and essential.
"While it certainly to the lay person would appear to be despicable that they're posting this information, it also assisted us in our investigation. So a real double-edged sword."
But OU senior Allie Erwin sees no gray area here.
"Our first instinct as a community was not to intervene and help this woman, but to post it on social media, and make a mockery of probably the most traumatic experience of her life,?" said Erwin.
She is not alone.
Social media erupted with commentary on the posts.
But investigators are urging the public not to rush to judgment.
They have not yet located those who witnessed and posted about the incident, and fear the public backlash may keep them from coming forward.
"The community at large views this as they watched and witnessed a sexual assault occurring, and did nothing but watch," said Pyle. "But the flipside of that is that they may not have realized what they were witnessing."
Erwin is dubious.
"All that needed to happen was to say, 'Hey are you alright? Is this what you want to be happening?' But she obviously wasn't ok with what happened. It was rape. She reported it to the police as rape."
As of late Tuesday, the male suspect remained free and uncharged.
Athens police are looking for any additional information and urging anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward.
Ohio University says it is conducting its own investigation into the alleged rape near campus.
The university in Athens in southeastern Ohio said in a statement Thursday that its investigation is "supportive" of the probe being conducted by the city police department.
In a separate statement, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis asked the university community for "thoughtful input and civility" on the matter.
CNN/The Associated Press