‘I Believe You,’ Women’s Center Tells Survivors


Sarah Willson

CCSU’s Women’s Center wants to let survivors of sexual assault know that it believes them.

Kristina Vakhman, News Editor

None of Julia Ferraguto’s friends believed her when she came forward with her experience of sexual violence.

“I was embarrassed, and because no one believed me, I started to try to justify the assaults, which lead to much pain and heartache,” Ferraguto said.

Two-thirds of survivors of sexual assault do not report their crime to law enforcement, according to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics. There are many reasons sexual violence crimes go unreported, but a survey by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network found that survivors thinking the police will not trust their claims is a major one.

To Ferraguto, letting survivors know that they will be heard and listened to on the Central Connecticut campus is important. The student coordinator for violence against women programs at CCSU’s Ruthe Boyea Women’s Center, Ferraguto created the “I Believe You” campaign to lend such a necessary ear.

“When I was planning my first ‘Take Back The Night’ in 2017, I wanted to create a campaign for victims who needed to hear the same words that I needed to hear, ‘I believe you,'” Ferraguto explained. “I believe you regardless of what you were wearing. I believe you regardless of how much you drank. I believe you, and it wasn’t your fault.”

Throughout the month-long April campaign, the Women’s Center and the Student Government Association work “to end victim-shaming, victim-blaming and slut-shaming,” according to an email sent out to the campus community. In addition to “Take Back The Night,” which was held last Wednesday, the Center hosts a string of events meant to empower women and invites anyone who “stands with survivors” to come to the Center and share why they do.

In light of the sexual misconduct findings involving multiple male CCSU professors, Ferraguto said that the “I Believe You” campaign is more significant than before.

“It is important to have this campaign on campus because we have an extremely toxic campus culture especially now,” she stated. “We need to create a positive and genuine support system for victims of sexual violence at CCSU, and that is the purpose for ‘I Believe You.'”

“This campaign is the voice that every victim needs to hear when they share their story. I believe you, I believe in you and I believe that you and your story will change the world one day,” Ferraguto went on.

Jacqueline Cobbina-Boivin, the Center’s director, holds that view as well, referring to the “Resign” campaign coinciding with “I Believe You.”

“There’s been enough embarrassment towards this institution that many people are suffering,” Cobbina-Boivin said, adding that the Center wants anyone who knows they’ve engaged in sexual misconduct on the CCSU campus to resign, as the campaign’s name suggests.

She furthered the need for “I Believe You” and the coming “I Don’t Owe You” campaign by citing how “society has told us to question the credibility [of sexual assault survivors].”

“Sexual assault and any acts of violence toward women is, ‘Did it really happen? Are you angry? Are you trying to get back at somebody for it?’ When you’re mugged, no one says, ‘Are you telling the truth?'” Cobbina-Boivin said.

That’s why, Graduate Assistant Olga Fritho said, survivors should utilize the Center more – it is a safe space for them to tell their story to someone who will listen, referring to how the Center was not involved in the cases that have recently surfaced in the news.

“People hopefully know now that they can come here. We follow up. You have people here who care. You have people here that are willing to support you and stand up with you and for you. In a lot of those cases, unfortunately, they did not come to the Women’s Center,” Fritho said.

“We did not come to campus to be assaulted or objectified,” Cobbina-Boivin bounced off of Fritho. “And we have an office that if it’s done, women are powerful and we will come together.”

The Ruthe Boyea Women’s Center is located in the Student Center in Room 215, its doors open to, its site reads, “all of CCSU’s community, men and women.”