Grad students talk sexual assault and It’s On Us

Cheyanne Kramer, Managing Editor

The Organization to End Violence Against Women hosted a talk on Tuesday, Feb. 13th. Three graduate students talked about the prevalence of sexual assault at Oakland University, resources available to students and the after effects of experiencing trauma.

Travis Ray, a second year Ph. D student, started the lecture with a discussion of the climate survey Dr. Michelle Purdy completed a few years ago and what those results mean to students.

This survey was the result of data from 117 men and 294 women entering their freshman year at Oakland. Of them, 36 percent of women and 15 percent of men were sexually assaulted since the age of 14.

Ray pointed out that many assaults happen while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and said these inhibitors prevent parties involved from perceiving intentions.

“We are not as good at perceiving intentions as we may believe,” he said.

Next to speak was Samantha Nagy, a second year master’s student. Her talk was focused on the after effects of sexual assault and how trauma affects a person.

She explained that anywhere between 12 and 50 percent of sexual assault cases end with someone experiencing a “freeze” response. Nagy said that although most people know about a flight or fight response, there’s actually a third response that happens when a person cannot run away or fight off the problem.

Nagy said that survivors of sexual assault experience are up to 15 times more likely to commit suicide. In addition, survivors experience higher levels of depression, alcoholism and drug problems.

“No one’s good time is worth any of this,” Nagy said.

The final speaker, Daniel Lanni, talked about the resources available to students at OU who experience sexual assault.

He explained that at OU, if a victim isn’t ready to report their assault to the police, they can only go to community resources or Graham Health Center.

There’s the Sexual Assault and Violence initiative on campus, which provides some instruction to faculty on how to handle sexual assault, but unlike Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, there is no office for violence against women.

“We should have some place for people to go to,” Lanni said.

Nagy said that the goal of the event was to present information from Purdy’s research.

“The title is the most important message,” she said. “It’s on us to change the culture of our campus.”

Purdy said that it’s going to take a lot more effort than just group lectures to change this culture.

“I told my students to encourage everyone to take ownership, make their talks a ‘we’ statement, not a ‘you’ statement,” she said.

Purdy said that there’s no easy way to make everyone know about sexual assault.

“Talks like this should be better attended,” Purdy said. “This is a relatively safe campus, but we need to know that this happens off campus to our students. We can do a lot more than we are.”