$5 Million Invested To Help Sexual Assault Victims In New York
By Moriah Humiston – Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – On Wednesday, September 5, The State Office of Victim Services invested $5 million for the State University of New York to distribute 225,000 “comfort bags” to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. According to localsyr.com, the comfort bags contain messages from volunteers and information about available support services, a pen, notebook, and stress ball, and hygiene products such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, a comb and deodorant to help victims treat themselves with care. The bags will also be assembled by students, which will help raise awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence on SUNY campuses.
These bags are part the plan for New York State to expand the “SUNY’s Got Your Back” comfort bag program. According to suny.edu, the program has provided roughly 25,000 bags to victims throughout the state in the last three years. The announcement for the expansion was made by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo explained the benefits of this program on SUNY campuses, and was quoted from his office on suny.edu:
This unique partnership has brought support to tens of thousands of victims while spreading awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence on SUNY campuses statewide,” Governor Cuomo said. “With additional investments to bolster this initiative, we can continue to help survivors while working to end the cycle of sexual assault and violence that affects so many New Yorkers.
The money for the funding is being received through the federal Victims of Crime Act. The funding given from this act helps SUNY to purchase supplies for the bags and coordinate volunteer faculty, staff, and students across SUNY campuses to assemble them. The Office of Victim Services also will meet with SUNY to “forge partnerships with organizations that assist underserved populations, including the LGBTQI+ community, individuals with disabilities and the homeless, so they participate in the program with the goal of raising awareness about the resources available for all victims” (source: www.suny.edu ). Funding will also be developing a distribution database to help direct these bags to the programs and collect non-personally identifiable information to collect data on where victims are receiving the bags the most and where victims may still need assistance and support.
Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin discussed the benefits of this programming on suny.edu:
As an agency, we are committed to helping all innocent victims of crime, especially those from typically underserved populations. This partnership provides us with an excellent opportunity to not only provide short-term relief to the victims of sexual assault and interpersonal violence, but to spread the word of the existence of many programs and avenues of support that are available to them to become survivors.”
Kristina M. Johnson, the SUNY chancellor, discussed how this step for SUNY has allowed the various universities across the state to become national models for other universities:
SUNY’s educational programming to prevent sexual and interpersonal violence on our campuses has become a national model for universities across the nation. The ‘SUNY’s Got Your Back’ program is a way of extending our impact beyond our campus walls. Over the past 28 months, SUNY has assembled and provided 25,000 comfort bags for survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence at hospitals, shelters, and rape crisis centers. We are thankful to the Office of Victim Services for their ongoing partnership and generous grant to dramatically increase this healing community service.
State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Executive Director Gwen Wright mentioned that provided a sense of comfort to sexual assault victims is crucial and “is a first step toward supporting their process of healing and survival”. She later mentioned that the program “…can help provide that support while raising awareness about these issues and the devastating effects they have on individuals, families, and communities”.
Syracuse Universities neighbor, The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF), is among one of these schools that will benefit from the new investment. The new investment will help SUNY ESF improve the support of their philosophy statement on sexual harassment, assault, and violence prevention policy. The philosophy states the following:
The College of Environmental Science and Forestry (hereafter referred to as the College or ESF) is committed to maintaining a learning and working environment which is free from all forms of harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or violence including that of a sexual nature. Every member of the College community should be aware that the College strongly opposes sexual harassment and that such behavior is prohibited by law and by the College. It is the responsibility of the College to prevent these incidents if possible, to correct them when they occur, and to take appropriate action against behavior that is a violation of this policy. The scope of this policy applies to all students, employees, applicants in the admission or employment processes, and visitors. (source esf.edu)
SUNY schools will continue to be affected by the investment for the 2018-2019 school year, and suggests that victims of sexual assault should reach out to counselors at each campus for any concerns or reports on sexual assault, or call The New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline (1-800-942-6906) offers help and information 24 hours a day.