Survivors of sexual assault start to see justice

Shelby Tankersley, Editor-In-Chief

Nearly 200 cases of sexual assault that were mishandled are being investigated across the country by the Department of Education. 68 of those cases took place at K-12 schools. Five of the incidents took place at colleges and grade schools in Michigan.

The Huffington Post provided a list of these incidents, some of them dating back to 2011.

Last month, the Department of Education gave these cases more funding in the hopes of closing them and letting the survivors of the assaults have justice. The funding is being used to create more staff for the department so they can handle cases in a timely manner.

The federal government has seen an increase in reports of campus rape due to activists and advocacy organizations creating more awareness of what survivors can do to receive help after being assaulted. One of those campaigns is called “It’s On Us”.

“’It’s On Us’ started with the federal government and a few celebrities making the campaign to say that it’s on all of us to stop sexual assault,” Madison Kubinski, vice president of Oakland University Student Congress, said. “We adopted it early on last year at OU and got some administrators to help with it.”

Zachary Thomas, the legislative affairs director for OUSC, added that sexual assault is an issue the entire country faces. Since people all over the nation are at risk of these assaults, OUSC wanted to take steps to prevent harm on Oakland University’s campus.

Kubinski and Thomas said that OU has been enthusiastic about this initiative and that both Oakland University Police Department and administrators such as President Hynd have been very supportive of “It’s On Us” as a preventive measure.

According to police reports, OU hasn’t had a large problem with sexual assault in years past, and OUPD is often able to handle reported instances quickly when they do occur.

“I think Oakland has been good at following through with the incidents we do have, I have to commend OUPD for that,” Kubinski said.

“They do their job well and they do it legally,” Thomas added.

Unfortunately, the problem with cases like the 194 waiting for verdictsis that they aren’t always handled properly.

According to Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit that works to defend the rights of people all over the globe, many rape incidents go as unfiled reports and therefore do not receive a proper investigation, or are misclassified as a lesser crime.

Because many are mishandled, survivors don’t always want to tell authorities what happened.

“Sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the U.S., largely because many victims fear that their cases will not be taken seriously and that police will not believe them,” said Sara Darehshori, senior counsel in the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch.

This is one of the things “It’s On Us” works to change.

“It’s unfortunate that so much of it goes unreported, but then again we don’t want to force any survivor into reporting it. That should be their choice,” Kubinski said. “But trying to find solace through therapy or talking to someone would be a huge step forward to recovering.”

“It’s On Us” on campus also works to educate students and give them resources to help prevent sexual assault at OU. A mock trial will be held in the Oakland Center on Jan. 26. Students who want to get involved in the campaign can contact OUSC or Pat Cassady in the Center for Student Activities.