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Sexual harassment survivor speaks out about abuse, encourages other survivors to report

June 27, 2022
<p>A sign supporting survivors sits at the back of the room for the Teal Ribbon Ceremony at the 2019 Teal Ribbon Award and Volunteer Recognition Ceremony at the MSU Union on April 15, 2019.</p>

A sign supporting survivors sits at the back of the room for the Teal Ribbon Ceremony at the 2019 Teal Ribbon Award and Volunteer Recognition Ceremony at the MSU Union on April 15, 2019.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Content warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault and harassment.

After personally experiencing and hearing about numerous classmates’ experiences with continual sexual harassment, junior Lee Sliwinski submitted a report to the Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE, against their classmate Kevin McCormick Jr.

“It’s super important for me because this has been a theme in every single college, I feel like, across America is that multiple female students will file reports against one student and really no serious action is taken and I’m just fed up with it,” Sliwinski said.

The reporting process

Sliwinski first spoke with the Office of the University Ombudsperson about the problem they and their female classmates were facing. The ombudsperson referred them to the OIE. 

In December 2021, Sliwinski filed a report with the OIE. They submitted screenshots they obtained from conversations with McCormick and other evidence from young women claiming to have had the same experience with McCormick.

According to the public incident report, “McCormick has been continually harassing and soliciting his female classmates for sexual pictures/favors. He is persistent and did not take no for an answer until threatened to be reported … He has also threatened sexual assault on a couple girls, stating after they rejected his sexual advances that they ‘might not get a choice.’”

After Sliwinski reported McCormick’s conduct, MSU Police and Public Safety received a notification and put together a case report because the claimant “expressed distress and fear for their own safety.”

MSU Police and Public Safety operates separately from the OIE. The OIE has the ability to investigate cases related to the institution by follow up on every complaint and reviewing. MSU Police and Public Safety has a broader jurisdiction when it comes to investigating anything of criminal nature.

After the report

Sliwinski said they were notified that McCormick was served a cease-and-desist letter from MSUPD ordering him to stop contact with them and the other female claimants. They also said they received notice that he was suspended indefinitely.

McCormick submitted a letter to appeal the actions against him. The full letter can be read here.

“I do realize there are screenshots of me saying I want to do inappropriate things to women including sexual assault,” McCormick wrote in the letter. “I can ensure that these things were said while roleplaying with another woman and that I was never planning on acting on these statements. However, these things are not OK to say under any circumstance.”

McCormick said he wrote the letter in January. 

“At that point I was still in denial and blaming others about my problem/addiction so that letter isn’t the best representation of the progress I’ve made in the past 6 or 7 months,” McCormick said in a Twitter message. “If I could go back and rewrite that letter, I would.”

McCormick said he was advised by mental health specialists to unenroll from MSU temporarily following the allegations. He said he has been attending regular therapy sessions to fix his actions.

“At the end of the day, it’s just about being a good human being,” McCormick said in a Twitter message. “For awhile, and frankly way too long, I’ve been a scum bag. That’s not the imprint I wanna leave behind on people. If my dad were still alive, I know he would find my actions completely unacceptable and embarrassing. I deserve everything that comes my way due to my own poor decisions.”

Disciplinary actions

Deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen could not confirm the disciplinary status of McCormick, but he said McCormick is not enrolled in either the current summer or upcoming fall semester.

“Generally speaking, if a student is interimly suspended or suspended from the university, they are not able to attend classes either virtually or in person,” Olsen said. “They are not allowed to enroll in future classes.”

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Olsen said suspensions can be an interim or temporary action the university takes while resolving a student contact case. The Office of Student Support and Accountability as well as the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education, through the OIE, can both issue interim measures during an ongoing case.

“These are suspensions that are ongoing while a case is resolved,” Olsen said. “That differs from a dismissal. The dismissal would come as a final disciplinary action that the university takes after the case’s result.”

If a student were to have received disciplinary action or unenroll from the university, that doesn’t change any orders from MSUPD. 

MSUPD Public Information Officer Chris Rozman said when people are issued a cease-and-desist letter, it is hand-delivered. Under Michigan law, if the person issued the letter comes in contact with the claimants, it could constitute criminal sexual harassment or criminal stalking.

“We can formally put that person on notice by issuing a cease-and-desist letter,” Rozman said. “Basically, what that’s doing is it’s documenting that an individual doesn’t want somebody else to contact them in any way, whether that be by electronic communication, appearing in person.”

This applies for any cyber-stalking or harassment as well. MSUPD holds jurisdiction over any MSU property, but if the person issued a cease-and-desist were to come in contact with a claimant outside of MSU property, the claimant can file a report with their local law enforcement to show there was unwarranted behavior.

Available resources at MSU

Sliwinski said their experience with the ombudsperson was helpful in directing them to the right resources to file the report.

“I love working with her, she is like an outside neutral resource, so she pretty much basically just gave me the names of the programs like OIE that can help,” Sliwinski said.

About a week after talking to the ombudsperson and filing a report with the OIE, Sliwinski said they received notice about McCormick’s cease-and-desist letter and suspension. 

“I thought OIE was good too,” Sliwinski said. “The detective I spoke to seemed like she really wanted to help, but I just thought that they could maybe deal with it in a more timely manner and give more updates on the process.”

Rozman also noted the department’s recent changes to enhance support for survivors and victims of crimes involving relationship violence and sexual misconduct. 

MSUPD has had a Special Victims Unit for years, which was recently expanded. There is also a Community Care Unit focused on mental health and behavioral issues. Both units are housed under the Community Support Bureau led by Deputy Chief Andrea Munford.

“We have dedicated a lot of resources to making sure and ensuring that we support victims and survivors in any way possible,” Rozman said. “That isn’t always criminal investigation. A lot of times that’s providing support and advocacy services or working with our university partners and stakeholders to make sure that we are ensuring the safety of that person in our community.”

Motivation behind filing the report

Sliwinski said in filing the report, they hoped McCormick would face the consequences they believe he deserved. 

“It’s important to me because women have the power and the voice now to make it known what these men are doing,” Sliwinski said. “I also want to do it because I want Kevin to know that he cannot keep doing this. Eventually, the consequences of his own actions are going to catch up with him.”

Sliwinski hopes McCormick’s actions line up with the promises he made in the appeal letter.

“I’m just hoping that he will actually start making changes,” Sliwinski said. “I really hope that he will actually start to do what he’s saying he’s doing instead of just saying he’s doing it to get people off his back. I also just want students to be aware of him and what he’s doing.”

Overall, they want to spread awareness and hold McCormick accountable.

“It’s also important to me because I’m using my ability,” Sliwinski said. “I’m not afraid of him. That’s the thing. Some of these girls are afraid of him because of what he did to them and I’m not. I’m kind of using this report as a way for these girls to get justice from him.”

Some resources to report instances of sexual assault include:

A list of more resources is available at supportmore.msu.edu.

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