In an attempt to bring campus-wide awareness to sexual assault at Binghamton University, the Student Association (SA) will be implementing a sexual assault education campaign.
The campaign will work toward developing a dialogue regarding sexual assault by improving educational programs and creating a more accurate perception of abuse, according to SA President Emma Ross, a senior double-majoring in political science and psychology. The SA office is aiming to partner with other student groups to create collaborative programs and reach out to organizations in the Binghamton community, such as the Crime Victims Assistance Center, Inc. (CVAC).
CVAC, according to their website, welcomes victims into a safe environment to talk about their experiences while also providing counseling and support throughout the process. Haley Murphy, coordinator for the Enough is Enough program through CVAC, said the center is partnered with the University to make resources more readily available to students.
“We partner with a lot of different student groups at BU as well as administrative departments on campus to make sure that students are informed about their community options to report as well as their on-campus options to report,” Murphy said. “We are open to every opportunity to become more accessible to students. It is really the mission of our program to serve everyone who is in Broome County, even if they don’t live here full time. We just really want to spread the word for them and let them know that our services are always available and confidential.”
Ross wrote in an email that she has a personal connection with the issue and stressed the importance of expanding the conversation around sexual assault while encouraging the empowerment of survivors with resources and safe spaces.
“When I was dealing with my experience I felt alone and lost, and we don’t ever want anyone else to feel like that,” Ross wrote. “Connecting survivors and their supporters is one of the most powerful things we can do. Attending [the Women’s Student Union’s] ‘Take Back the Night’ event my freshman year was when I realized the power of conversation, and how badly I had needed an outlet for my story.”
According to Ross, the campaign will strive to address a wide variety of voices and stories while also addressing how sexual assault may affect several different aspects of a victim’s life, such as mental health, body image, social relationships and education.
“We want this to be intersectional and address how sexual assault differs for people of color, the [LGBTQ] community and people who have a disability,” Ross wrote. “We also want to address information surrounding sexual assault and validate the people who have gone through this horrible experience.”
Melanie Cruz, a junior majoring in psychology, said it is important it is for all students to feel safe expressing their stories, no matter the circumstance.
“Being a student with a disability, it isn’t that I don’t feel safe, I just don’t feel accommodated,” Cruz said. “I feel like the University is struggling to kind of make it feel like everyone has a voice, which is why it is important for the SA to fight back on that and give students a voice where they feel comfortable and empowered.”
Ross added there are many myths surrounding sexual assault that students need to be educated on in order to put an end to certain misconceptions.
“One of the big things for me is dispelling myths around sexual assault,” Ross wrote. “It’s not the ‘scary man’ in the [alley. Eight out of 10] times, a college woman knows the perpetrator. It can be very difficult to look at someone you know, someone you may have trusted or someone you may love, and identify what they have done as sexual assault. Talking about these kinds of issues with peers is something that is missing on this campus, and we strive to fix that.”
The campaign is expected to start announcing events sometime in mid-to-late October. Ross said the initial events will focus on informing students about intervening when they see something wrong and promoting awareness of sexual assault.
“We are essentially trying to fill in the gap between [‘If you see something, say something’] and everything that happens, if that’s not enough to prevent it,” Ross wrote. “What my office is starting this year is not something we view as a one-time conversation, but rather we are hoping to lay the groundwork for intersectional programming on sexual assault for years to come.”
As the program is in its beginning stages, the team is still looking to hire interns to help get it off the ground. The application can be found online and in the SA Newsletter from Sept. 9.