Sexual assault and rape culture are undeniably present in today’s college environment, affecting campuses across the nation. To help victims and their loved ones manage in the aftermath of such circumstances, Geneseo has partnered with Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York’s RESTORE Sexual Assault Services. The conversation surrounding the partnership began in spring 2015, and fall 2015 marks the first semester RESTORE has an office on campus.
“This partnership ought to result in the campus—and entire community—knowing that RESTORE is here for them as a source of support, advocacy and confidentiality,” RESTORE Outreach and Education Specialist Lauren Berger said. “By integrating our services into the great work Geneseo is already doing to combat gender-based violence and sexual assault, we can create a united front against these crimes.”
RESTORE’s presence on campus provides Geneseo students with increased outlets and resources for dealing with the trauma that can arise from instances of sexual assault and serves to spread awareness and perpetuate the conversation around rape and sexual violence prevention. The thought process is that the more informed the student body is, the more voices there will be combatting sexual abuse.
“It is a daily commitment to challenge these messages wherever we may find them,” Berger said. “Whether we see a questionable post online or hear about an assault on the news and someone scoffs, ‘What was she wearing?’ If we have the ability, we have the obligation to question that thinking and provide accurate information. Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted, it is never the victim’s fault and resources are available for those in need.”
The collaboration between Geneseo and RESTORE is being largely modeled after RESTORE’s work with SUNY Brockport, RESTORE’s first college campus affiliation. Berger works closely with Geneseo’s Director of Student Care Services and Title IX Coordinator for Students Tamara Kenney in the partnership. RESTORE is also involved with the monthly Campus Safety Advisory Committee for Interpersonal Violence.
“We know from national statistics that on average, one in five women will be a victim of sexual assault before she finishes college and more than 75 percent of all survivors were assaulted by someone they know,” Berger said. “These troubling numbers illustrate the dire need for responsive services, but also prevention and intervention education.”
The on-campus office that has been designated to RESTORE is located in Sturges 208B. There, students can access information and resources confidentially and also inquire about advocacy and counseling. Office hours are currently 1-4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, but this is subject to change every semester. RESTORE also staffs two toll-free, 24-hour hotlines; one for Monroe County and one for Genesee, Orleans, Livingston and Wyoming counties that can be reached at 1-800-527-1757.
Another reason Geneseo’s partnership with RESTORE is vital to the campus community is because many cases of sexual assault go unreported. This is because of various reasons, one of which is the victims’ wish to keep the matter private or deal with it in ways other than going through the criminal justice system. Having RESTORE at Geneseo gives students the opportunity to confidentially speak to and get help from a counselor who has been extensively trained in such matters.
Student responses to RESTORE’s services and advocacy appear overwhelmingly positive. “I think RESTORE is a great program because it allows students to engage in dialogue about rape culture. It’s something that’s so taboo in our society, but it needs to be talked about,” sophomore Alyssa Forbes said. “It helps students—whether they’ve been victims of assault, know a victim, or not—feel safer and more confident on their campus and in this community.”
The reality of knowing one’s assailant can hit close to home for many college students. Geneseo’s partnership with RESTORE aims to educate students about risk factors and how to prevent themselves and their peers from becoming victims or offenders.
Berger expressed her belief that with time, RESTORE will be able to have an increasingly positive impact at Geneseo through both its resources and advocacy. “I hope to see a continued stream of various events engaging in different ways to involve all groups and viewpoints in the conversation,” she said.