The Thursday Jan. 26 issue of The Lamron included a news article covering a new initiative that Geneseo is part of called SUNY’s Got Your Back—a SUNY-wide program intended to provide relief to victims of sexual assault. “Intended” is, what I believe, the correct choice of word here. While the program has good intentions, it does far less than it should to actively combat a serious problem among many college campuses.
Through this program at Geneseo, “comfort bags” filled with T-shirts, sweatshirts, toiletries and personal care items are given out at hospitals to victims of sexual assault. In this article, RESTORE’s College Advocate Coordinator Christi Waldron is quoted saying that these items can be used “after something’s happened to freshen up.” These words are incredibly demeaning and insensitive, especially coming from an individual whose profession is dedicated to helping victims of sexual assault.
The notion of donating a bag full of necessities is most advantageous to people suffering in situations such as poverty or war since they may not have access to many basic items that are necessary to survive. At many other schools that are a part of the program, these bags are donated to rape crisis and domestic violence shelters.
At Geneseo, however, donated bags are sent to hospitals through Rochester’s RESTORE Sexual Assault Service organization. While it is not safe to assume that victims of sexual assault may also be in these types of financially unstable situations, it is a stretch to assume that all victims of sexual assault will not have access to basic items such as clothing and toiletries.
One in four women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, but the true statistic is unknown due to the amount of sexual assaults that go unreported. A large flaw in this program is that it does absolutely nothing to victims who do not wish to report the crime. These victims experience the same amount of trauma, yet are unable to receive any help.
The funding for this largely ineffectual program should be allocated toward actively engaging in helping victims of sexual assault, rather than in simply providing bags of items that “benefit” victims. Sexual assault is both a physically and mentally traumatizing experience—an experience that a bag of donated goods just won’t fix. Rather than donating bags, SUNY could help by covering hospital bills and by providing therapy to victims.
Preventing sexual assault should be of utmost importance; it should be marked before providing relief to victims. Many times, this is easy to forget. Offering relief to victims is a nice gesture, yes; it does nothing, however, to solve the bigger problem.
If Geneseo is serious about combatting the issue of sexual assault, then it should not pour our time, money and resources into an initiative that does not seriously help victims with this devastating issue.