ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday $5 million in funding through the state Office of Victim Services that will allow the State University of New York to supply and distribute 225,000 comfort bags to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence seeking help at hospitals, shelters and rape crisis centers across the state.
The funding will continue and expand the “SUNY’S Got Your Back” program, which has provided roughly 25,000 bags to victims throughout the state in the last three years — each containing essential personal care items and vital information about the services available to them.
“This unique partnership has brought support to tens of thousands of victims while spreading awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence on SUNY campuses statewide,” Cuomo said. “With additional investments to bolster this initiative, we can continue to help survivors while working to end the cycle of sexual assault and violence that affects so many New Yorkers.”
“These bags provide survivors with a small degree of immediate comfort during an incredibly stressful time,” added Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “More importantly, however, these bags contain the information victims can use to find support, security and reach services that can help them with recovery in the short-term and long-term.”
The Office of Victim Services is providing the funding to SUNY over three years from money received through the federal Victims of Crime Act. The funding will enable SUNY to purchase supplies for the bags and coordinate volunteers across the state to assemble them, including faculty, staff and students on each of its 64 campuses.
The Office of Victim Services also will work with SUNY to forge partnerships with organizations that assist underserved populations, including the LGBTQI+ community, individuals with disabilities and the homeless, so they participate in the program with the goal of raising awareness about the resources available for all victims.
SUNY will also use the funding to develop a distribution database that will help direct the bags to rape crisis programs, domestic violence shelters, and hospitals, and collect non-personally identifiable information – such as gender, age, race and ethnicity – to track who is receiving the bags and identify where victims are underserved.
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. The bags also contain information about available support services and educational materials intended to alert victims of their rights under state law.