College takes strides to curb sexual assaults

The New York State Department of Health has partnered with SUNY schools in order to assist in identifying sexual violence and to help in implementing bystander intervention programs as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Enough is Enough program. Geneseo hosted such a training session sponsored by SUNY and the Department of Health on Jan. 15, which focused on bystander intervention at any point during sexual violence or stalking. Geneseo’s new bystander intervention program Live the Green Dot will be implemented in fall 2016. Members of the Department of Student Life attended training for this program at the University at Buffalo in December. In addition, Director of Student Care Services and Title IX Coordinator for Students Tamara Kenney and Title IX Coordinator, Assistant to the President for Diversity and Equity and Director of Affirmative Action Adrienne Collier attended the training at Finger Lakes Community College in January.

According to Kenney, this program is based on the “Three Ds:” distract, delegate and direct.

“The premise of Green Dot is that everyone doesn’t have to do everything, but everyone has to do something,” Kenney said. “Bystander intervention … certainly is an important piece of sexual assault reduction, but is also an important piece for a lot of other issues on campus.”

Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert A. Bonfiglio added that the program will be primarily for students.

SUNY is also in the process of preparing a campus climate survey that will assess student and employee knowledge about college guidelines and procedures in addressing sexual violence, how and where to report sexual assaults as a victim or witness, the ubiquity of sexual violence and bystander demeanor and conduct.

Bonfiglio noted that Geneseo does not yet know when this survey will be distributed or who will be required to take it.

According to Kenney, one of the biggest changes Geneseo has seen through Enough is Enough is its partnership with the sexual assault service center RESTORE. This partnership fulfills the Enough is Enough requirement that Geneseo works with an outside crisis center.

Rachel Olin ’15 serves as RESTORE’s counselor/advocate and is on campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. According to Olin, if a student reports to her office, their information is kept completely confidential unless they are inflicting self-harm.

According to Outreach and Education Specialist Lauren Berger, RESTORE will be participating in several events in April during the campus’s sexual assault awareness week, including Take Back the Night.

This semester, RESTORE plans to work with Leading Men Stand Up, It’s On Us, Women’s Action Coalition and Voices for Planned Parenthood “to not only create the united front and the perception that everybody on campus is on the same team and that we’re all standing together to prevent sexual violence, but also because nobody wants to reinvent the wheel,” Berger said. “If everybody is working together and already having events, then we can all be at that table and have everybody add their piece of discussion instead of doing everything on their own.”

According to Bonfiglio, another change Geneseo has seen is the creation of the Students’ Sexual and Interpersonal Violence Bill of Rights that is universal across all SUNY campuses. Bonfiglio served as a representative from Geneseo on the Chancellor’s Temporary Working Group on Continual Improvement to Sexual Violence Prevention Policies, which developed this document last year.

Some of the rights include the right to report to local law enforcement and state police, the right to participate or not participate in the judicial conduct process free from pressure by the campus and the right to access at least one level of appeal of a determination. The full comprehensive list of these rights is available to students on the Geneseo website.

Kenney said she hopes that with the changes in sexual assault policies and programs that students who have been affected by sexual violence will be more comfortable reporting such events.

“One of my hopes would be that students would feel more comfortable charging other students with this—whether that means through the conduct system or the court system—to really stop this on our campus,” Kenney said. “I hope that this will educate students a little bit more about how to go about [reporting] and some of the protections that are there for them.”