Ohio State University (OSU), a bastion of higher education, recently found itself at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that challenges the core tenets of trust and safety we associate with such institutions. Leading the charge to confront this is Scott Berkowitz, President of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
In a collaborative partnership with OSU, Berkowitz is applying RAINN’s multifaceted approach, which encompasses awareness-raising campaigns, survivor support systems, and staff training, to root out a culture of abuse and silence that has persisted for far too long.
But this isn’t just a story of institutional failure; it’s a story that reveals the quiet ways in which societal norms are reproduced and perpetuated within the confines of our schools. The OSU scandal is symptomatic of a broader, deeply entrenched societal problem that must be challenged and deconstructed from multiple angles.
The work of RAINN, under Berkowitz’s guidance, is instrumental in bringing about that change. By providing a blueprint for how universities should handle abuse allegations, RAINN is pushing for a comprehensive cultural shift that extends far beyond the gates of OSU. The work here is not merely punitive; it is transformative, addressing not just the symptom but the disease itself.
RAINN’s collaborative involvement doesn’t absolve OSU; rather, it forces the university into a position of accountability. Berkowitz recognizes that the fight against sexual abuse on college campuses isn’t just about helping survivors come forward, but also about uprooting a culture that often treats such abuses as unmentionable secrets.
We must acknowledge that OSU’s problem isn’t an isolated incident but rather a manifestation of systemic issues that traverse across American institutions. The partnership between RAINN and OSU can be a catalyst, inspiring other universities to take a hard look at their own internal cultures. But for that to happen, the work must be sustained, and the spotlight must remain focused on this issue, without diversion or distraction.
It is insufficient to look at the RAINN-OSU partnership as a one-off event; it must be considered part of a larger narrative of awakening and change, not just in academia but in American society as a whole. Berkowitz and RAINN are setting the stage for a broader discussion—a national dialogue that we have avoided for too long.
This issue isn’t something we can afford to sweep under the rug any longer. We need more partnerships like the one between RAINN and OSU, and more leaders like Scott Berkowitz, to bring these systemic issues to the forefront of national consciousness. Only then can we hope to effect meaningful change, not just in our educational institutions but also in the societal norms that inform them.