The Center for Womyn’s Concerns continued its long-standing tradition of hosting Plattsburgh State’s Take Back the Night, part of an annual world-wide protest against sexual violence Saturday in Angell College Center’s Warren Ballrooms.
Informational booths lined the back walls, where students could learn about resources available to them if ever needed.
In addition to Title IX, students can reach out to STOP Domestic Violence, a 24-hour program that assists victims of domestic violence through their hotline, its campus location in Beaumont Hall 302A open on Wednesday mornings or Planned Parenthood’s clinic at 66 Brinkerhoff St.
The night’s events included a “Speak Out,” which provided sexual assault victims and allies a chance to share their stories anonymously.
“There’s a lack of awareness,” said Megan Rea, CWC president. “Even when we tell people [about sexual assault], it’s a lot of statistics. Take Back the Night is important because it gives a voice to those statistics we shout at everyone.”
Although every 98 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted, two of three of them are unreported, a 2014 study by the Department of Justice said.
The “Speak Out” began after organizers turned off the ballroom’s lights and drew the blinds, allowing only candles as the room’s light source.
More than a dozen victims used the two microphones that flanked either side of the room to share their own experiences of sexual assault, some of which occured on the university’s campus.
CWC secretary and sophomore environmental studies major Ashley Rivera believes experiences like this are commonplace for victims in PSUC and feels as though the campus administration, and Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman in particular, aren’t serving survivors.
“The administration doesn’t care at all about sexual assault survivors,” she said. “When victims of sexual assault go and report what happened to [Hartman], it’s disregarded.”
Last December, copies of a note written by an anonymous student were hung throughout campus detailing her own experience with sexual assault in PSUC and how she felt the adjudication board failed her.
“I was gang raped on campus in my residence hall,” the note read. “My rapists took photos and recorded themselves violating me. I had a hearing regarding my assault, and my rapists were found not responsible. I’m f-ing scared to be here. I’m traumatized, I feel disgusting.”
Hartman disagrees with Rivera, saying the administration is thoroughly following reports of sexual assault.
“I don’t believe that to be true, but it’s a different perspective,” he said. “Sometimes the adjudication board, the student conduct board, will either find someone responsible or not. Someone is going to walk away from that process dissatisfied. Sometimes the evidence isn’t as crystal clear as someone hopes or thinks.”
However, Hartman acknowledges there is room to improve.
“I’ll accept the criticism,” Hartman said. “I have helped create the current structure and find the resources for what we currently have regarding a response to Title IX. Is it enough? No, I would agree with that. If we could hire 20 more people to educate and do investigations, that would make a difference. I don’t have the resources.”
As the final part of Take Back the Night, students organized a march starting at the ACC. Marchers cut through campus briefly before marching through Brinkerhoff Street then through downtown, before returning to the ACC after moving along Broad and Rugar streets chanting: “We have the power. We have the right. The streets are ours. Take back the night.”
Email Fernando Alba at firstname.lastname@example.org