Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a new public awareness campaign in an effort to support the “Enough is Enough” legislation to combat sexual assault on college campuses last month.
“Enough is Enough” focuses on three major ideas. The first is a uniform definition of affirmative consent. Consent is defined as a “knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity,” according to the newly established SUNY Sexual Assault & Violence Response (SAVR) page.
The second is a statewide amnesty policy, meaning that universities must ensure that students reporting any incident of sexual assault will be granted amnesty for violations of campus policies at the time of the incident, such as illegal use of drugs or alcohol.
The third part is expanded access to law enforcement. The law created a new specialized unit of the state police known as the “Sexual Assault Victims Unit.” Police will be trained specifically to deal with and respond to sexual assault-related crimes accordingly.
Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a student at Columbia University, is an advocate for the “Enough is Enough” campaign. Ridolfi-Starr said she was sexually assaulted on campus the summer after her freshman year, and she believes schools can do a lot more to prevent assault on campuses, including ongoing and comprehensive education as opposed to a few workshops.
“We have no idea what goes on behind closed doors,” Ridolfi-Starr said. “Schools need to release accurate data on how they handle reported sexual violence.”
She said reports on more “big picture” data, such as investigations and their results, rather than individual cases will help paint a clearer picture of sexual assault on campuses.
The legislation is a reminder that the battle against on-campus assault is far from over, coinciding with the recent survey by the Association of American Universities, or AAU. Their survey had 150,072 students participate.
Their findings concluded that one in four undergraduate women experiences sexual assault on college campuses. It was also found that men experienced nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force, but not nearly as much as females or transgender or genderqueer people.
“All students are concerned with their own safety,” Kumari Shalini, a Stony Brook student pursuing her master’s degree in computer sciences, said. “They don’t want to do things that they wouldn’t want to happen to themselves.”
Michael Moshkowich, a junior health science major at Stony Brook, said that while he has not seen any issues with sexual assault on Stony Brook’s campus, he still believes it to be part of a larger problem.
“It’s hidden in the shadows,” Moshkowich said. “I think we have to inform more students about sexual assault—particularly male students. But Enough is Enough isn’t effective. We need stricter rules, and we need to educate the male population because this issue is overlooked and not taken seriously by kids who are 20, even though it’s a prominent problem.”
SUNY’s new online tools for victims of sexual assault, SUNY SAVR, and a multilingual resource for immigrant students are customizable for schools and cost nothing. Their sites include a safety feature, an “Exit Site” button that clears the individual’s history so it can’t be seen that they were visiting the SAVR site, then redirects them to Google’s homepage.
“SUNY continues to show it is a national leader in combating campus sexual violence,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a SUNY news release. She added that issues of sexual violence on campuses are “too often swept under the rug.”
Laura Dunn, the executive director of SurvJustice, a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to survivors of sex crimes to “increase the prospect of justice,” said in the news release that she hoped other colleges would follow suit.
Featured image credit: Diana Robinson