A Ph.D. student in Texas was criminally charged after authorities accused her of lying about being assaulted and then raking in as much as $40,000 from a GoFundMe intended to help her recover.
Roda Osman, a student in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin, was recently charged with felony-level theft by deception. In September, a friend of Osman’s started a GoFundMe called “Help Roda Recover” after Osman was allegedly hit in the face with a brick.
On Saturday, Osman told Fox News Digital she’s innocent and that she is “heartbroken” over the allegations.
Osman posted a video on social media where she alleged that she was assaulted by a man who asked for her phone number and was rejected. In the footage, she appeared visibly upset and pointed to a swollen part of her face.
“This man just hit me in my face with a brick and all these Black men just watched, and they don’t give a f–k,” Osman said.
The video was widely circulated on Twitter and, according to NBC reporting at the time, the situation, “[pointed] to a familiar pattern of backlash hurled at Black women when they publicly denounce harm from Black men.”
According to court documents obtained by Fox News Digital, the Houston Police Department claims that Osman was in an altercation with a man when she was hit with a water bottle.
“It appeared Defendant Osman and [the man] were in the middle of a verbal argument when Defendant Osman swung her right hand while holding an unknown object and hit [the man] in the face,” the documents read. “[The man] then swung his right hand while holding what appeared to be a plastic water bottle and struck Defendant in the face.”
“The video footage capturing the incident did not support Defendant Osman’s recorded statement.”
Police also said they were contacted by a caller who accused Osman of running a fraudulent GoFundMe in 2020.
The 2020 GoFundMe was reportedly titled “Help Black Muslim Mother Pay Her Medical Bill,” and claimed that Osman was “viciously assaulted by private security in Minneapolis, sustaining multiple facial contusions, a black eye and injuries to her leg. She needs an estimated $5,000 to pay for medical bills, legal fees, a new phone and more.”
The caller contacted the Minneapolis Police Department, but said that police could not corroborate the alleged assault. Authorities also spoke with a roommate named Rachel who accused Osman of scamming in the past.
“Ms. Rachel stated at first they were cool, but that she discovered Roda was scamming people and she wanted no part of it,” the document said. “Ms. Rachel mentioned the scam Roda took part in by creating the GoFundMe in 2020 claiming someone hit her but it was a lie.”
Osman spoke with Fox News Digital about the allegations on Saturday. She said that the head injury she suffered prevented her from knowing exactly what she had been struck by.
“I’m not guilty…as a person who suffered from a head injury from blunt force trauma and went online five minutes later for my own safety, I’m not obligated to remember every single detail correctly,” Osman explained. “That is unprecedented, and it’s dangerous to victim-blame in that way, and to also hold me to a standard that is not legal.”
“I didn’t see the weapon he hit me with,” the student added. “[A brick] is what it felt like. And that was the only weapon that I saw when I opened my eyes and I looked up…so that’s what I believe the weapon of choice was.”
Osman also told Fox News Digital that she was being targeted by the “manosphere,” a group of anti-feminist social media users.
“The manosphere [is] targeting me…for speaking out against a Black man because Black women are supposed to protect Black men from the justice system,” she said. “But I refuse to be silenced when I have been harmed so brutally.”
According to Osman’s UT–Austin webpage, her interests include “Black feminist theory, ethnography, urban social movements, Black diasporic studies [and] decolonial studies.” Osman told Fox News Digital that the legal situation is making it difficult for her to focus on school.
“It’s a horrible precedent to set for Black women, because Black women are already unprotected, and we are already silenced,” Osman said. “And this is sending a really bad message to all Black women telling them that if you are assaulted, and you do not remember every single detail correctly, you will be criminalized. And that is awful. And it’s a scary, scary thing and I feel so heartbroken.”
GoFundMe told Fox News Digital that Osman has been banned from its website.
“GoFundMe has zero tolerance for the misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing,” a spokesperson explained. “The fundraiser has been removed from the platform, all donors have been refunded, and Roda Osman has been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers.”
Fox News Digital reached out to University of Texas at Austin for comment, but has not heard back.