I am responding to the op-ed by Anja Chivukula on April 6, 2018 titled “To Make Campus Safe for Survivors, We Need 24/7 Healthcare.” We at Barnard are deeply committed to providing excellent healthcare for all students, including those who have been victims of sexual assault or violence. The article featured some common misconceptions about resources for college students, and I am writing to offer clarity.
In the piece, it was stated that the only in-person service that Columbia and Barnard provide “is around-the-clock support following an assault.” Chivukula cited institutions such as Brown and Dartmouth that provide 24/7 care. In fact, Barnard provides identical services as the above institutions: an on-call clinician available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when the health and counseling centers are not physically open, as well as a medical and psychological clinician to speak to a student in crisis.
The author also gave an example of an infirmary at Princeton where students could go for medical treatment from the university at any time. It is important to note that infirmaries at universities are diminishing, since they were created to house students who had communicable diseases—such as tuberculosis or measles. They were never meant as refuge for victims of trauma.
While Barnard and many of our peer institutions provide the 24/7 on-call support mentioned above, the idea of a 24/7 crisis health care center does not exist on any college campus and would not be able to properly address the needs of the victim. She cites possible reasons sexual assault victims may be deterred from seeking treatment at the emergency room at St. Luke’s, when in fact this is exactly where students need to go. It is at the Crime Victims Treatment Center there and at other hospitals where victims can have a rape kit created if they want to press charges against their assailant, as well as receive medications immediately to prevent detrimental diseases like HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. This cannot be done at a college health center. We at Barnard have always tried to assist students with costs of medical care, such as co-pays if they present a barrier in accessing care. In our experience, victims of sexual assault do not want to process their assault right away—they want time to rest and speak to a trauma specialist when they are ready.
My reason for writing this letter is to be clear that Barnard is here to offer support to sexual assault victims. Students need to know they can call on us—immediately or after a delay—and we will be there to help.
The author is the Executive Director of Student Health and Wellness Programs at Barnard.
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