By Fernando Alba
Almost anyone on SUNY Plattbsburgh’s campus can say how much of a problem sexual misconduct is on campus. But not many hear about it directly from survivors.
The Instagram account @shareyourstoryplattsburgh changes that. It’s a page run by two survivors themselves who set up a Google form for others to anonymously share their stories.
The page is run by a junior and a sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I didn’t want to be the center of the account. I wanted it to be more survivor-centered. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s about me. Because it’s not about me,” the sophomore said.
The pair decided to start the account after seeing Cristal Garcia, another SUNY Plattsburgh student, detail her mental health struggles after her abuse on campus on her Instagram account.
“I’m very overwhelmed once again, but I promise something is going to come out of this for all of us at Plattsburgh, especially us black people,” Garcia’s December 2019 post read.
The students behind @shareyourstoryplattsburgh saw that post as a rallying call.
“We see that time and time again. We see how it just takes one person to share their story for other people to feel comfortable to share their story too,” the sophomore said. “And that’s why the page was created. Not everyone wants to publicly say [their story]. Not everyone wants to put that on their personal account.”
Since the pair started the account before the fall semester, the sophomore said they’ve received more than 100 submissions. The amount of submissions caused the form to crash, she said. Some were even lost, but 22 posts are currently up on the page detailing experiences involving Greek life, community advocates in dorms, relationships and more.
The page also lists resources for survivors as well as information for others not familiar with sexual misconduct and how it can affect mental and physical health, among other things.
“If they’re a survivor, I want them to know that they’re heard. They’re seen and believed and supported,” the sophomore said. “And for the non-survivors or just bystanders, I want them to understand that this is a real issue on campus. This is something that is affecting people all around you.”
The amount of submissions weren’t a surprise to the sophomore. Not even what was detailed was surprising for the most part, she said. What was surprising was the amount of drug abuse students mentioned in the submissions, especially with cocaine and heroin.
“It’s alarming to read how many people use drugs on this campus,” she said. “It’s not talked about enough, and we don’t have enough resources to address that.”
That’s the underlying problem, according to the sophomore; the college systematically fails at addressing the needs of its students’ health.
“What usually I see from these departments is everyone is blaming another department,” the sophomore said. “They never take accountability for their role that they’ve played in the problem to be honest.”
The counseling center seeing students on a bi-weekly basis isn’t good for students, she said. And now, charging those students $60 a session for psychiatric help is hurting them.
“A lot of students don’t have that, especially in the middle of a pandemic. You would think they’d be more lenient and not be asking for more money. It’s shameful because it feels like no one cares,” she said.
Many would assume the Title IX Office would be the first stop for a survivor on campus, but the sophomore behind the account said it isn’t trusted. Many survivors’ abusers are left with the equivalent of a “slap on the wrist,” she said.
“Talking from experience, I truly feel like the Title IX process is more traumatizing than the assault itself, to some extent. Because when survivors are assaulted again, they don’t want to report it. They already know the outcome. What’s the point?” she said.
“At the end of the day, peoples’ mental health comes first above everything. It’s traumatizing to constantly see your abuser on campus. It’s traumatizing to fear for your life. But we see that once and once again and then wonder why so many people drop out, wonder why so many people transfer from Plattsburgh. It’s an issue so clear but just not talked about.”
Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise Boire responded to Cardinal Points’ request for an interview by saying, “Due to FERPA and privacy rights, there may be much on this topic that I am unable to speak on in order to uphold law/policy/individual rights.” Blaise Boire did offer to possibly talk with Cardinal Points but did not respond to a following email and phone calls.
The students behind the account both plan on transferring from SUNY Plattsburgh. Their advice to incoming students is to not trust the image the college presents itself as. They’re also demanding it takes action to better protect its students.
“What I want the administration to see is that there are students who are suffering,” the sophomore said. “What are you going to do? What are you going to do to change that?”