Chancellor Johnson Announces SUNY’s Got Your Back Event at University at Buffalo to Help Victims of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

March 14, 2019

SUNY Partners with Activist and Survivor DJ Zeke Thomas to Raise Awareness of Sexual Assault Prevention Programs

Thousands of Comfort Kits to be Assembled and Distributed

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson announced an event at University at Buffalo to promote SUNY’s Got Your Back, an initiative to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and build awareness of prevention programs to combat sexual assault on college campuses. The event is a part of a series in partnership with renowned activist and survivor, DJ Zeke Thomas. Campuses will assemble and distribute thousands of comfort kits for survivors of violence.

"We are committed to continuing our efforts to help raise awareness and end sexual and interpersonal violence by providing our campuses with resources to educate University at Buffalo students, faculty and staff, and community members,” said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. “My thanks to Zeke Thomas for sharing his story, which I hope will provide courage and strength to other survivors of abuse. Thank you also to the hundreds of SUNY volunteers for their dedication to this important campaign."

"Speaking to college students is a not only a privilege but a responsibility," said Zeke Thomas. "In speaking about the aftermath of how I handled my own trauma, I am now maintaining my strength and continuing to grow. These are things you can’t learn in a textbook, but you can learn from survivors like me. It is my mission to help any way I can."

Zeke Thomas will be attending the SUNY’s Got Your Back events where he will share his story and then DJ a set as students assemble SUNY’s Got Your Back bags, which will be provided to domestic violence centers, rape crisis programs, hospitals, and law enforcement across the State of New York. The tour is made possible through a partnership between SUNY and the New York State Office of Victim Services, which in 2018 funded nearly $5 million to expand the program over three years.

"The devastation that victims of sexual assault and domestic violence suffer is truly immeasurable, and I saw that every day when I was a special victims prosecutor and now in my present role," said OVS Director Elizabeth Cronin. "At the Office of Victim Services, we talk about giving people help, giving them hope, and helping them heal, and that is exactly what this project is designed to do. We are proud to partner with SUNY to help young people who have been victimized by crime on their road to healing."

The dates and locations of upcoming events include:

  • April 25 – Fashion Institute of Technology

Outreach to Marginalized Students and Community Members

Sexual and interpersonal violence has a disproportionate impact on members of the LGBTQI+ community, and on students and community members of color. Since the impact of violence to these communities is significant and often unaddressed, SUNY remains committed to reaching these individuals and linking them with the appropriate resources. Zeke Thomas’ story and ability to connect with students is especially important as he helps SUNY to further its efforts in reaching students and community members who are at elevated risk of sexual and interpersonal violence and those who are frequently ignored by traditional outreach services.

About SUNY's Got Your Back

SUNY's Got Your Back provides the opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and community members from across New York State to create comfort kits for victims and survivors of violence, and to learn methods of better preventing and responding to violence.

Each comfort bag contains personal essential hygiene products to assist victims with self-care – soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb and deodorant -- a pen, notepad, a stress ball and an affirming message from a volunteer. Critically, the bags also contain information about available support services and educational materials intended to alert victims of their rights under state law. By enlisting the help of students to assemble the bags, the program will also help to raise awareness on SUNY campuses of sexual assault and domestic violence issues.

About the Office of Victim Services

OVS provides a safety net for crime victims and/or their family members who have been victimized through no fault of their own and have no other means of assistance. The agency compensates and reimburses eligible individuals and family members for medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and support, and loss or damage of essential personal property, in addition to other assistance.

In addition, the Office of Victim Services currently funds 222 victim assistance programs that provide direct services, such as counseling, crisis intervention, advocacy and legal assistance, across New York State. For more information about services offered by the agency, including eligibility guidelines, visit www.ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.

Additional Information and Resources

The New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline (1-800-942-6906) offers help and information 24 hours a day in English, Spanish and other languages. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can call 711. New York State also supports and funds community-based programs to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence and other crimes, including these Domestic Violence Resources, a network of victim assistance programs funded by the state Office of Victim Services, and Sexual Assault and Violence Response (SAVR) Resources—a multi-lingual resource created by SUNY to support students or any New Yorker in need of information and support.

State law prohibits hospitals or other medical providers from billing victims of sexual assault for the cost of a confidential forensic rape examination, unless those individuals choose to have the bill sent to their insurance. In every other instance, providers must directly bill the state Office of Victim Services. 

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2018, more than 424,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2017-18 academic year. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Its students and faculty make significant contributions to research and discovery, contributing to a $1.6 billion research portfolio. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit www.suny.edu.


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