#BringBackTheAC… because healing after rape means feeling safe and finding your voice again
#BringBackTheAC… because healing after rape means feeling safe and finding your voice again
Below is a letter written to Dean Kantrowitz and the Chancellor by a source who wishes to remain anonymous.
“Hello Dean Kantrowitz,
I first want to thank you for taking the time to notify the student body on the reasoning behind merging the Counseling and Advocacy centers. I think it was a shock to the student body when first reading the news and your email provides a little bit of insight. As I am away from Syracuse for the summer, I am one of the majority of the undergraduate community that will not be able to attend these meetings, but wanted to provide some feedback that I hope will be taken into consideration.
I am a rising senior at the university. I had first sought counseling with the center when I struggled immensely with adjusting to college life as a freshman. This past semester I was utterly devastated when I was turned away from the Counseling Center’s services when I had asked about the likelihood of being able to meet with a counselor more regularly. I was completely disrespected by the staff, especially by the receptionist at the front desk and the counselor I used to occasionally meet with. They recommended to “see a doctor in the community” when I do not have a car on campus, I have an enormous 18-19 credit course load and pay an incredible amount of tuition and refuse to pay extra for campus counseling. More importantly, I had attempted to reach Cory Wallach, the director, to inform him of these events and nobody from the Counseling Center had ever returned my phone calls. It was utterly upsetting that a center, who’s job it is to help the students, would act so immaturely and be very lackadaisical to help out a student who was in need. To this day, the problem has not been solved and upon my return to the university this fall, I will continue to get to the bottom of this problem.
While processing the events of what had happened, I realized that a flaw of the Counseling Center–that deserves a little more attention than it has in the past–is that there is too small a staff to serve an enormous population of students who are equally entitled to these services. The Counseling Center uses the excuse that there are too many students seeking help and there are “only 17 staff members.” When calling to reserve an appointment, most students have to wait between 1-3 weeks to get seen for 45 minutes. There is also the occasional conflict, in which counselors are not very considerate of a student’s rigorous class schedule. No student deserves to feel rejected to a service that is paid for with tuition because there is too small a staff to serve the needs of a student.
In the new merging of the Counseling and Advocacy Centers, I ask you to consider the possibility of adding more staff to the Counseling Center as a way of reducing the heavy traffic of students who are equally deserving of Counseling Center services. I think we can both agree that the university does not want to diminish these services from students with this new merging in place, but make the Counseling Center more accessible. With only 2 counselors who are trained to counsel students who have been sexually assaulted, it will be very difficult for the new structure to be ‘enhanced’ in the way that you would hope it to be. With the addition of more staff members to counsel and advocate for students who have been sexually assaulted, the traffic of students who seek these services will decrease enormously and more students will actually be satisfied with the counseling services that Syracuse University offers. I am sure there are multiple factors to why 2 Advocacy Center staff is an ideal number for you, but Syracuse has an enormous student body with many sexual assaults that go overlooked and eventually forgotten. A staff of 19 to accommodate a population of 10,000+ students, who are equally entitled to counseling, is wrong. I hope you reconsider the possibility of increasing center staff to better accommodate students and assure them that the center is very accessible with this new structure in place. Should students experience an assault that deserves immediate attention, they do not deserve to wait up to 3 weeks for an appointment.
I have the uppermost respect for when a university is planning to make changes to strengthen the Syracuse community, but this new merging is a topic that is very sensitive to many students and deserves the most care and attention.
Thank you very much for your time in reading this email.”
Below is an email sent to Rebecca Kantrowitz from Meaghan Greeley regarding the announcement of Listening Meetings to take place on campus. Published with Meaghan’s permission. Thank you for making your voice heard Meaghan!
Thank you for your email. While I believe that your recommendation was not a reflection of an intention to harm survivors, I am not trusting that these listening sessions are intended to heal those who have been hurt and disenfranchised by your decision. It is clear to me that the Chancellor and your office are not truly intending to listen with an open mind to those who have asked to be heard. In fact, from your email it seems that the Chancellor will not even be in attendance. Please correct me if I am misinterpreting your email. Furthermore, these meetings will do nothing to create a working solution if your office AND the Chancellor are not coming to the meetings with an open mind. An open mind would include promising to consider all options, including reversing the Chancellor’s decision. The messages that I received from this email are: the Chancellor will continue to ignore, avoid, and deflect the SU community’s disappointment and re-victimization due to his decision; and that these meetings are meant solely to placate those who are hurt, since the administration is not willing to consider reversing it’s decision. As a social work student I have learned the importance of advocacy. The skills and knowledge that I have obtained through the social work program have allowed me to develop critical thinking skills when it comes to policy change and this attempt by your office appears to be; what my professors would call “smoke and mirrors”. It is not a good use of my time and energy to attend a meeting where those who need to listen will not be in attendance and where those who are attending come to the meeting with a closed mind. Frankly, I expect more from this institution! I look forward to hearing your response to my concerns. -Meaghan Greeley
MSW Candidate 2017 Syracuse University
David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics
Maddie Horrell, Collin Chambers, Valerie Rodriguez, and Leyla Falhan published this piece on syracuse.com today, on behalf of Youth and Student ANSWER at Syracuse University:
“There are several reasons why so many students, faculty and staff are upset and troubled by this decision. One of the primary reasons is the manner in which the decision was made and implemented. It was announced with a window of only five days, and during a time when the vast majority of students are away from campus and the city. It is hard not to see that move as an attempt to prevent and/or limit any campus-wide discussion about or resistance to the action.”
Below is a response to Rebecca Kantrowitz’s most recent email from a source who wishes to remain anonymous.
“I would seriously consider boycotting the meeting. There are two criteria that must be met for such a meeting to have any meaning: (1) the chancellor needs to be there, and (2) there must be a commitment from him to listen with an open mind, promising to consider all options, including reversing his decision.
The meeting announced by RRK meets neither criterion. In fact, it preserves the status quo by enabling the chancellor to continue hiding from the controversy, while sending the message that his administration has no intention of reconsidering. The only purpose of the RRK meeting will be for SU administration to use it to “prove” they are listening. After everything that has happened during the past few weeks, it is an insult that they think they can actually fool people into thinking the meeting will be of any consequence. Frankly, attending such a meeting would be playing right into their hands. Unless, of course, you can come up with a strategy that derails the administration’s strategy.”
The following was submitted by Connorlynn Gaffney…
Manifesto to the taboo.
We are the men and women who have been violated. Our bodies and minds have been used wrongly at the hands of another for their own purposes. We have been abused mentally and physically, we have been raped, and we have rebuilt ourselves like the phoenix rises from the ashes because the only other choice was death. We moved past the memories, the flashbacks, the panic attacks, and the nightmares to become the strong independent individuals thriving in today’s society.
We are taboo. You don’t know how to react to me. You don’t know my full story, when and where and how it happened, so you don’t know what you are allowed to say or ask because you are worried to offend me. You have all these preconceived notions of what it means. You think it is black and white, but it’s not. Sometimes we don’t realize we are in the situation until it’s almost too late, or we are reflecting back. Other times while it’s happening you aren’t conscious, you think it’s someone else, or maybe you just made a mistake and trusted the wrong person. These things happen.
The problem is your reaction. You shirk away from us out of discomfort. The problem is your guilt; you want to do something but don’t know what because you are so uncomfortable. I know you are afraid to hug me because you don’t want to set me off, maybe you have seen me breakdown when a stranger walks too close, but your fear makes it worse.
We value, above all else, respect. We need you to respect us as individuals and not see us only through the lens of our assault. We value love and trust. We value looking into your eyes and being met with love, not fear. We do not want you to look at us full of pity, we want you to see the strength it takes to wake up and get through every day. We value strength. The strength to force yourself to wake up, to get out of bed, to get dressed and go outside feeling like the whole world is staring at you, like its written on your forehead. We value the strength to speak up: to say something, to face the consequences of the world, and to even face prosecution in some cases which requires reliving your experience multiple times, facing the assaulter and the skepticism of the situation. We value the strength to sleep at night when the nightmares are overwhelming, but more than that, we value the strength to trust again. To trust another individual so intimately into your life when the innocence and joy of those relations between two individuals have been so drastically stolen from you.
Solutions: We need to talk. The world needs to hear out stories. You need to know that the first time I was sexually assaulted, was in the basement of my best friend’s house. The second time was emotionally by my now ex-fiancé. The third was a man from who whom I reported which resulted in him being fired and judgment from my co-workers. The fourth was the first time I accepted the word. He was a Scottish man my father’s age, and he did it in my bed. The fourth was my best friends ex in the backseat of his car while I was unconscious.
I need you to respect me. I need you to look me in the eye and say I still love you. I need you to hug me and replace the feeling of his hands around my neck with the feel of light fingers and gentle kisses. Make me forget the cruel ways he used my mind and body with your own caring a nurturing ways.
I need you to take action. When you see this happen to someone, when you see someone who may be walking into a bad situation, you need to step in to intervene. When you see a woman stumbling home and a man alongside her, trust your instinct. You need to know when the scene you are watching is toxic. You need to know that when you see a woman hit a man, it is the same, when you hear an individual of a couple berating the other that it is a dangerous situation. Intervening at that second might not be necessary, but analyze it. Will the individual in question be hurt, physically or mentally, if someone does not step in? Would they not be more grateful for your intervention than not?
I challenge you to listen. You can cry, you can ask questions. Please ask questions, but do not judge me. Do not judge me for acting out of pain and putting myself in a dangerous situation. I feel the guilt over it already. Support me; tell me you will always be there, for anything I need, no matter what, no matter what time. That is what we need, and that is why we need the advocacy center. It is a safe space for those who have experienced sexual assault in an arena designed solely for that purpose. The counseling center is beneficial, but in different ways. Where the counseling center offered me support, the advocacy center offered me options. Secondly, at the counseling center I was required to fill out multiple forms and answer the same questionnaires over and over and over, before being greeted by a judgmental male who I was not entirely comfortable discussing my experience with. At the advocacy center, once I decided to go, I was greeted with a much more welcoming, subtle, and secure atmosphere where I immediately felt comfortable. I would not underestimate the power in having multiple safe spaces on a campus for those in need, it would be very disappointing to see places for students in need reduced.
The following was submitted by Ben Bradley, SU alum and member of A Men’s Issue…
In April of 2008, near the end of my junior year of college at Syracuse University, I received my most precious possession from Janet Epstein, Jill Sneider, and Mel Stoffel. I don’t mean precious in the “just an expression” kind of way; I mean that it is the most valuable thing that I own. It’s just a simple paperweight that says “Syracuse University R.A.P.E. Center Volunteer: Your Legacy Lives on.” It was given to me because at that time, the R.A.P.E. Center had been eliminated, its staff were changed to prevention specialists, and its ability to support students on campus had been egregiously crippled. It was given to me because R.A.P.E. Center student volunteers like me were in the middle of a semester-long campaign to restore the center to how it was before, when it was a center where countless students have gone for support since 1990, where it had been leading the way nation-wide in sexual assault advocacy long before the White House paid this issue any interest, where student groups like A Men’s Issue, Sex-Esteem, and e5m worked tirelessly to bring awareness and change minds in regards to sexual assault on this campus. It was given to me because the center’s future had been significantly jeopardized, and these three amazing people wanted me to have this small token to remember the special place in the basement of 111 Waverly Avenue.
Then, like now, students, facility, and staff came together from all parts of campus and stood together in defense of the Center. We compiled over 450 handwritten signatures (this was still back in the day before petitions were online) on our petition to bring the R.A.P.E. Center back from concerned students and faculty, held forums and rallies, wrote letters, and did everything we could to do to make things right again. Eventually and against all odds the Chancellor and administration returned the R.A.P.E. Center to its former brilliance, its name was awesomely rechristened to The Advocacy Center, and it went back to being the special and unique place that changes lives on a daily basis.
And now, in 2014, just a handful of years after students came together in a real and powerful way demanding a separate and fully supported Center on campus, The Advocacy Center has one again been eliminated. Today, June 4th, is its last day. Words cannot express how betrayed I feel by Syracuse University and how heartbroken I am that the administration could even consider such a decision, let alone once again make such a move without any student input, during the summer when students don’t even have a chance to participate. The Advocacy Center is the reason I am who I am today. Because of my experiences there I have dedicated my life to ending sexual violence and engaging men in real ways to work together to end this terrible issue that affects so many.
The paperweight says Your Legacy Lives On…I look at it every single day and become inspired all over again, because I remember how the Advocacy Center truly changed me for the better, how it gave me, this little dude from Virginia, the courage to believe that I could make a difference. I hope that somehow Chancellor Syverud sees this letter and all of the unbelievable action and support so many have given in support of the AC. I hope that he and the administration are open to dialogue and are receptive to the real wants and needs of students, which is bringing The Advocacy Center back to full capacity. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I say that of all the truths I carry in my heart, of all the things I hold most important, my belief in The Advocacy Center, in Jill and Janet and Mel, and all the students who have come through its doors, in making a true difference for good in this world, is number one. It is the most
special place and thing I have ever been a part of. And it needs to come back. I say again, with all that I am, #BringBacktheAC.