Highly-publicized controversy surrounding on-campus sexual assault cases has prompted New York State legislation that would threaten public and private colleges in the state with federal funding penalties if college administrations do not take preventative measures against sex offenses.
Additionally, the proposed bill would aid victims of sexual assault, providing safe places to report sexual assault without fear of retribution.
The bill’s co-sponsor, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, has gathered much support in the SUNY network; various SUNY officials have spoken out in favor of this bill, including SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and SUNY Associate Counsel Member Andrea Stagg. SUNY New Paltz Director of Compliance and Campus Climate, Tanhena Pacheco-Dunn, also praised the bill and its practical and positive prospective impact on students.
“Through our various programs, we hope to give students the life tools they’ll need to navigate their lives,” Pacheco-Dunn said in an interview with recordonline.com.
Other states across the nation have already implemented similar bills. In Connecticut, recent bill Public Act No. 14-11 requires all in-state colleges to create response teams designed to aid victims of sex offenses. The bill also calls for a mandatory annual tally of reported incidents of sexual violence and detailed reports on the outcomes of disciplinary hearings.
Statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimate that “for every 1,000 women attending a college or university, there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year.”
“While I’ve only been verbally harassed on campus and at parties, I believe a lot of the same issues are there—rape culture, misogyny, date rape—because many parties just make me feel very, very uncomfortable,” Brienna Parsons, a third-year philosophy major, said.
SUNY New Paltz’s latest available crime statistics state that sex offenses varied from two in 2010, to eight in 2011, to six in 2012 according to that year’s New Paltz Annual Security Report. These statistics comprise only the reported incidents of sexual assault.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “less than five percent of completed or attempted rapes against college women were reported to law enforcement.” According to the same source, victims of sexual assault often choose not to report sexual offense or abuse incidents, fearing potential revenge crimes or backlash among fellow students.
“It’s a little scary, how many [instances of sexual assault] you hear about, and how many you don’t hear about but are still there,” said Katelyn Hock, an undeclared first-year at SUNY New Paltz.
On campus, New Paltz offers HAVEN, a student-staffed support group for victims of sexual assault and unwanted sexual advances. HAVEN is located in Deyo Hall and has a 24-hour emergency hotline: (845)-802-3307.
“Do I feel safe at SUNY New Paltz? Definitely,” Hock said. “The other night, I was walking around at eleven o’clock at night and the campus police were still driving around. That made me feel better.”