Below is a statement said by Laura Cohen at our press conference today:
My name is Laura Cohen and I am a senior majoring in magazine and women’s and gender studies. I’m going to speak on THE General Body’s position regarding the administration’s “final response” to the Advocacy Center and sexual assault services.
Syracuse University, as well as most other universities, has a culture of rape. Rape culture means that in certain spaces, rape and sexual assault is pervasive and normalized due to our attitudes about gender and sexuality. This culture includes sexual objectification, victim-blaming, and the denial of rape and sexual assault as a real issue. When one in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime, there can no longer be a refusal to acknowledge the harm of sexual violence on this campus, and we need better systems in place to combat this.
We acknowledge the chancellor’s apology for the way in which the Advocacy Center was closed, but it should not have taken so much effort on our part to hear this. Further, it was an apology about “process,” not about the culture the decision has made and continues to uphold.
The fact of the matter is, we still do not have a safe space on this campus for survivors of sexual assault, or a place where a caring community of individuals can convene to work together towards prevention methods.
We have asked for the administration’s commitment to being a worldwide leader in addressing and ending sexual assault. At a time where universities across the nation are opening centers like the Advocacy Center, SU has closed ours. We have asked for the creation of a new standalone center for sexual assault and relationship violence services, advocacy, education, and outreach that combines the advantages of both old and new structures. This has not been met.
There has been no commitment to enact the recommendations of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education and Advocacy, which will be necessary going forward. If the administration doesn’t treat that workgroup with as much honor and give it as much power as they give to some other workgroups, we will have a problem.
The administration has shown that it cannot be trusted to do the right thing for survivors of sexual assault. If the administration does not take the workgroup’s recommendations, we will be stuck with the current system.
The workgroup has heard from recent victims of sexual assault that the stated resources available are actually not available. We’ve heard students have not been able to meet with counselor elsewhere than the Counseling Center on Walnut Ave., or frat row. We’ve also heard accounts of there being a six-week wait to see a therapist.
In addition, there has also been no public announcement of a Yes Means Yes policy.
We are not done when it comes to bettering sexual assault services on this campus, and THE General Body will not end the sit in until we see a real commitment from the administration to do so.