In a step in its crusade to prevent sexual violence on college campuses, the White House will screen a new documentary about sexual assault victims at universities across the U.S. this year.
The documentary “It Happened Here” chronicles the stories of women like Sarah O’Brien, who federal complaint in 2013 against Vanderbilt University, prompting an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.
In an interview with HuffPost Live on Monday, O’Brien discussed how her university handled her sexual assault case when she sought help: "I didn't really feel supported at all." O'Brien filed a federal complaint in 2013 against Vanderbilt, prompting an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.
While O’Brien said she didn’t report her assault immediately because she was “terrified” and unaware of her resources, the Vanderbilt graduate said she was not satisfied with her university's eventual response.
“When I finally made that kind of shift in my own journey to report, I did go to the women’s center and I said, ‘Hey, this happened to me. I know it was a while ago, but I need to report this because he could do it to someone else,’” O'Brien recalled. “And they told me that it was too late and that I couldn’t report it anymore.”
O'Brien said she later received a call confirming her worst fears -- her attacker had struck again.
“Sadly, last fall, I actually got a phone call from a friend, and the person who had assaulted me was the same person who had assaulted someone else recently,” she said. “That was one of the saddest moments of my entire life. And I, after that, took about 6 months off of my activism and I got really upset."
Vanderbilt University did not respond to a request for comment.
Since O’Brien’s “difficult” experience dealing with her assault and taking on the bureaucracy at her university, the student is speaking out to other women.
“Through the Take Back The Night event that we had at Vanderbilt, I spoke out and I had over 50 to 100 emails from women telling me that they were also survivors and that I wasn’t alone,” she said. “That kind of really motivated me to want to make a difference here.”
"It Happened Here" will be screened at college campuses beginning in February.
Click here to watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about the documentary "It Happened Here," with producer Marjorie Schwartz Nielsen.
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