A backpack can be a fashion statement, a school necessity or just a place to store odds and ends — but a SUNY-wide initiative is turning the backpack into a way to help survivors of domestic violence.
The “SUNY’s Got Your Back” program is the product of a partnership between SUNY’s Title IX Coordinator Association and the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA). The goal is to provide 2,016 backpacks that hold shampoo, toothpaste and other items for victims of domestic violence by the end of the year.
The project, which will be spearheaded by the Title IX coordinator at each participating SUNY school, will collect these bags and distribute them to local shelters and organizations that assist those escaping interpersonal violence. Joseph Storch, SUNY associate counsel and Title IX project coordinator, said the program aims to alleviate some of the burden placed on both the victims and the shelters they use as resources.
“Every day, men, women and children seek assistance from rape crisis and domestic violence shelters across New York state, often with little more than the clothes they are wearing,” Storch said. “The goal of ‘SUNY’s Got Your Back’ is to provide ongoing support for these individuals, while also ensuring that more of the money shelters and other response organizations have can be spent on critical support and services.”
The NYSCASA executive director, Joanne Zannoni, agreed that the program will help to serve and better the community.
“The ‘SUNY’s Got Your Back’ project engages campus community members in sending a positive message of support for victims and survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence, as well as the community-based victim advocacy programs that serve them,” Zannoni wrote in a press release.
SUNY Title IX Association President Lisa Evaneski, who is also the Title IX coordinator at SUNY Oswego, said this was just one of the ways the system plans on combating violence on their campuses and in their campuses’ vicinity.
“Students, faculty, and staff at SUNY’s campuses across the state have been working to address issues of domestic and sexual violence in their communities in a variety of ways,” Evaneski wrote in a press release. “We are proud to build on those efforts and pull together now in this first united initiative.”
Angela Federico, a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said the program helps with aspects of domestic violence that frequently go unaddressed.
According to Zach Vigliani, the BU Student Association (SA) president and a senior majoring in business administration, the initiative aligns with the SA’s goals to also help those in need and combat assault.
“This new program further exemplifies SUNY’s commitment to campus safety and sexual violence prevention,” Vigliani wrote in an email. “Pairing this initiative with the efforts of individual schools like Binghamton and our ‘It’s On Us’ initiative, we are proving to remain a national leader in this area. I’m proud to attend a system and university which value so highly the safety and security of students.”
As a large public institution, SUNY has an obligation to help those in the communities it inhabits, said Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.
“The SUNY Title IX Coordinators Association is an innovative, resourceful, and committed group,” she wrote in a press release. “Thank you to the many campus representatives and volunteers, and our partners, for making this project possible.”