GENESEO — As the number of sexual assaults on campus escalates, state officials want to put an end to it.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited SUNY Geneseo on Monday to discuss the newly formed “Enough is Enough” initiative that will combat sexual assault on all New York State college and university campuses.
SUNY Geneseo President Denise Battles said she is grateful for Hochul’s work on the important issue of sexual assault on campus.
“Like colleges and universities across the country we certainly struggle with this challenging and very complex issue,” she said. “We take very seriously our responsibility to prevent sexual harassment and sexual relationship violence. As a community we are very deeply committed to working together to make sure everyone understands sexual misconduct is unacceptable, and there is no place for it on our campus.”
Battles added the state's policy is the most aggressive in the entire country when it comes to sexual assault on college campuses.
Hochul said she wants everyone to have the knowledge on what to do in the incident that a man or woman is sexually assaulted on campus.
“We are addressing this issue head on in the state of New York. We have a governor who has three college age daughters. He is very aware of the challenges we face and it troubled him deeply. Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo came up with a plan to protect young people on campuses,” she said. “We needed to create a better environment, so they could feel like they could come forward with their story. They will know the right avenues to go too. Our law enforcement will be properly trained to handle this.”
“When we tried to have this enacted statewide in all the private institutions (but) there was some reluctance. Some of the campuses thought that if we are talking about it and acknowledge it that means you have problem and it gives you a black eye,” Hochul continued. “The fact that people are talking about it says that we are handling it. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t acknowledge it. This was a conversation that was not going on in years past publicly. We now have laws in place that will cover the entire state.”
Hochul mentioned this law turned the entire way college campuses view sexual assault upside down. It talks about what constitutes as sexual assault, and what should happen to the one doing the crime.
“We are treating these allegations of sexual assault very seriously. We are not having a different standard of what happens on campus versus what happens off campus,” she said. “We know a young man can come forward and say ‘well she never said no’ ‘how did i know she didn’t want this to continue’ and that was always the defense. Alcohol is involved a lot of the time. They are not in the capacity to say yes or no and they take advantage of that.”
Part of the law means there has to be affirmative consent, which gives a mutual understanding that both participants are knowingly engaging in sexual activity. There is also a statewide amnesty policy that encourages students to report sexual assault or other sexual violence by granting immunity for drug or alcohol use.
Hochul added many students won’t report the crime, because they are afraid they will get in trouble, but this law makes it so they won’t.
“We want to give survivors of sexual assault the option to tell their story,” she said. “Some do not like going forward and having the public attention on them. They would rather it be handled on their campus. They need to know there is a nurturing environment of administrators that are trained and will listen and understand.”
There are three percent of serial rapists on campus that commit these crimes over and over, Hochul said.
“It is the same serial rapist getting away with it weekend after weekend. That is what we are finding,” she said. “Many times the survivors know the rapist. This is people they know, but just because you sit in class with this person doesn’t mean you are consenting. If you are going to continue to behave this way you will be removed from your campus.”
Hochul said this is why we need broad based training across the campuses.
“We created a bill of rights for students,” she said. “It is very simple and tells rights and resources. Every campus is different. Not all have a rape crisis center on campus. What is going on now is insidious, and you don’t know when you leave the campus what will happen. Young woman should be able to go out and have a good time without worrying about what will happen.”
Hochul said the state is creating a different environment where people can feel more comfortable coming forward with their stories and getting some help.
“We have a moral responsibility,” she said. “You can check on your friends and make sure they are Okay. Every one of us should feel a responsibility to look out for each other, not just on campus, but in life in general. You can be very instrumental in preventing an assault. You can all be part of someone’s recovery and get them on the road to healing.”
Hochul wants a couple of things to happen, and this is where the college campus community comes in.
“I want a complete change in societies aim to resolve the crimes on campus,” she said. “I want to get to a point with sexual assault on campuses where it doesn’t matter who you are, you will be ostracized. Whether it is an athlete, big man on campus, or the student president you will be ostracized for performing sexual assault. If you find out they are harming another person on your campus they should have a stigma attached to them. This is how we change the behavior. People don’t want to have that happen to them.”
“The next thing I want is for all of you to come up with creative ways to get this message out,” Hochul continued. “It has to be a constant reminder. Remember to look out for your classmates. Enough is Enough. Tell us what is a clever way to keep this issue on the front burner. I want you to be the last class that I talk to about this. You can be the ones that end it. This is your human rights challenge.”
To learn more about Enough Is Enough visit https://www.ny.gov/programs/enough-enough-combating-sexual-assault-college-campuses