EDITORIAL: Buffalo State, SUNY should be lauded for sexual violence reforms

Things are about to change with regard to how Buffalo State treats sexual assault cases — and it’s been a while in the making.

After an analysis of 159 sexual harassment and assault reports on four SUNY campuses, including Morrisville State, New Paltz, Albany, and Buffalo State, the U.S. Department of Education found issues in the way these reports were handled. And with the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses (as well as in greater society), this needed to be addressed.

According to the Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network (RAINN), more than 25 percent of reported rape victims are between 18 and 24 years old, which is right around college age. Also, only about one-third of college campuses fully comply with the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to publicly disclose campus crime statistics to federal education officials.

Keep in mind that according to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey: 2008-2012, only five percent of completed or attempted rapes of college women have been reported to police, below the national average of 40 percent.

That SUNY, the largest public university system in the country, has volunteered to examine and change its approach to sexual assault reports system-wide, is a tremendous step forward. It shows initiative and a serious approach to an urgent problem on campuses nationwide, not just in New York State.

It also stands in direct contrast to schools of higher renown — like Columbia University, which refuses to disclose the number of students found responsible for sexual assault or how they were punished. Or Yale University, which believes a written reprimand is enough to punish a potential attacker. Unlike those schools, SUNY has taken action, and that should be commended.

We need safety to be a priority for our students, faculty and staff at all hours and in all situations.

We also need them to feel comfortable about coming forward to police and to the school about sexual assault. It isn’t often easy for victims to take the appropriate measures when faced with sexual assault. If you are the victim of a sexual assault on campus, it’s important that you seek proper counseling. You can receive counseling from the on-campus Counseling Center without an appointment in the case of an emergency by walking in or calling (716) 878-4436. If the Counseling Center is closed, you can call Crisis Services at  (716) 834-3131.

If you need to visit an emergency room, the closest one is Sisters of Charity Hospital, located at 2157 Main St.

Just as close is Western NY Immediate Care, located at 2497 Delaware Ave.

Taking prompt action, instating a 24-hour response system, and providing a supportive environment for those who report sexual violence to authorities together are a great start to combating an issue of this scale.