Don’t give up the fight for reproductive rights, there are others standing with you
Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions of sexual assault.
As an advocate who has been working in the field of domestic and sexual violence for over a decade, I can say it’s an incredibly concerning time to be doing this work. The impact that the overturning of Roe v. Wade has had on individuals, specifically college students with marginalized identities, is immeasurable and devastating.
There are direct connections between Roe v. Wade being overturned and victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I want to put words to the complexity of this issue in order for college students to gain a better understanding and know how to take action.
My name is Chris Kosakowski and I am the Campus Advocacy and Prevention Team Coordinator for Vera House, Inc. I’ve been involved in advocacy work for sexual, reproductive and relationship health and rights since I was an undergraduate student at Syracuse University. I’ve worked on all sides of these issues— presentations, training, therapy and support. I have seen time and time again how important reproductive health access and abortion rights are for victims and survivors. There are countless people who have experienced sexual assault and have become pregnant. Overturning this landmark decision means that they don’t have control over their decision, body or life.
In some domestic violence situations, I’ve seen how abusers force, coerce, threaten and intimidate their partners. They limit their access to birth control and use abortion as a tool to control or harm their partner. The freedom and control over one’s body being stripped away is an attack on the basic humanity to which a person is entitled.
Through my work with the Vera House, one of my roles is to connect students to services and resources. We try to help meet any potential needs a victim may have. These include our confidential shelter where someone can escape an abusive living situation, access to counseling with therapists to process the trauma associated with sexual assault or working with an advocate to help amplify victims’ voices and get them connected to resources. For some victims, it may also mean getting connected to the appropriate resources for reproductive health options in abortion access and interpersonal violence can go hand-in-hand.
In Syracuse, there are resources, primarily through Planned Parenthood, that a person can be connected with should they need to receive an abortion. New York state has codified the right to abortion into the state constitution, despite the overturning of Roe. With students coming to SU from many different states and countries, it is incredibly important that people know what their rights are. Which is why raising awareness about the issues of domestic and sexual violence and abortion rights is incredibly important. If students don’t know what their rights are, they won’t know when those rights are being violated.
Make no mistake, this decision is specifically about control and limiting the rights of individuals. However, it’s also about so much more than that. When one federal right is stripped away from people, who’s to say what’s next on the chopping block? The impact of this decision has caused genuine trauma for folks—feelings of pain, isolation and panic. I write this to let any college students dealing with these issues know that they are not alone; there are people here to help.
It can feel like the world has turned upside down and hope is lost. But that is not the case. If these issues are something you have interest or passion in, I encourage you to get involved. Many agencies like Vera House or Planned Parenthood, which provide essential services to college students are nonprofit organizations, meaning their funding is always up in the air and they’re frequently understaffed. Getting involved as a volunteer or advocate can be an incredibly powerful way to make change. Donating to the National Network of Abortion Funds can be a quick way to financially support those fighting for this cause.
Outside of getting involved directly, change can be generated on many levels. As college students, your voice can be incredibly influential in advocating for change on local, state and federal levels. Though, on an individual level the easiest and most impactful change is sometimes addressing these issues within your own social circles. Too often we experience misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism and countless other forms of oppression in direct and indirect ways from students, staff and faculty. An inappropriate statement, a problematic joke and a targeted comment are all opportunities for individuals to act as empowered bystanders and step in to address these things.
I’m no Supreme Court Justice, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have just as much potential to use my knowledge, skills, privilege and power in whatever ways I can to make the world a better place. I encourage SU and the larger Syracuse community to find a way of creating a world free of violence and abuse with reproductive rights for all.
For those who have questions, comments or concerns, please reach out to us at the Vera House, Inc. at 315-468-3260 or the Counseling through the Barnes Center at The Arch at 315-443-8000.
Chris Kosakowski is a Campus Advocacy and Prevention Team Coordinator for Vera House
Published on September 4, 2022 at 10:13 pm