Corinne Sartori recently joined SU Libraries as accessibility specialist. In this role, Sartori is the Libraries’ expert on testing, documenting and supporting procurement for hardware, software and content. Sartori is part of the Libraries Information Technology team and works with…
Randi Bregman G’90, Co-Executive Director of Vera House, Is a Support and Advocate for Students Impacted by Sexual and Relationship Violence
Upon graduating with a master of social work (M.S.W.) degree from Syracuse University in 1990, Randi Bregman joined the staff at Vera House, a Syracuse-based nonprofit that works to prevent, respond to and ultimately end domestic and sexual violence and other forms of abuse.
Over her 31-year career and in her current role as co-executive director of Vera House, Bregman has been and is a fierce advocate for victims of sexual and relationship violence, on and off campus. Syracuse University News recently chatted with Bregman to learn more about the partnership between Vera House and the University and how students can connect with Vera House’s services.
01Tell us about the work you do at Vera House and how it intersects with the University.
“After earning an M.S.W. degree from Syracuse, I launched immediately into a position here at Vera House. I started as a coordinator of what was then called the Domestic Violence Coalition. Even in that original role, I did a lot of work and teaming across the community, including with the University. In 2001, I became executive director of Vera House and in 2005, Vera House merged with the Rape Crisis Center in the City of Syracuse and I became co-director. That’s when, for me, the relationship between Vera House and Syracuse University deepened quite a bit.
“We began working closely with a number of different offices on campus–historically, most closely with counseling and student support services, but also Greek Life and through the Mentors in Violence Prevention program. Our teams and volunteers train together; we’ve done presentations together; there’s been a lot of collaboration. If we have a case where we think someone who knows the Syracuse University system is needed, we’ll reach out, and if Syracuse had a case that bumps up against the community justice system, they’ll reach out.
“Though our methods sometimes vary, throughout the years, we have come together in real conversation to try to focus on what we’re all really here for: to attend to survivors of sexual violence who are on campus and also to team together to try to prevent sexual violence before it occurs.”
02What should students know about your services at Vera House?
“If students prefer an off-campus resource, it’s important for them to know that they have us. What we can offer to students is a 24-hour support line [315.468.3260]; we also have a chat service that we started during COVID because we realized some people weren’t able to make phone calls. The chat runs from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, right through the Vera House website. We have support groups, and we also provide advocacy and therapy/counseling for victims of sexual assault. All of our services are confidential and available at no cost to the victim.
“The University has plenty of on-campus services, but we hear sometimes that students feel more comfortable not having these services be so close to home. Vera House offers a little bit of a bridge; we have a wonderful campus team, led by Chris Kosakowski, and our team is right on campus if somebody does need that. Vera House recently started offering weekly office hours on campus at the Barnes Center [on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.] so that if a student wants to talk to someone with an off-campus connection but doesn’t want to deal with transportation or logistics, it’s easy to just drop in.
“Ultimately, we want all students to have the full range of options available to them. We’re all about helping people make informed choices, not directing them. Students who come to us don’t necessarily have to file a report or follow through with the case—we want this to be about acquiring healing and justice for victims, however that is defined by them.”
03As a member of the Chancellor's Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence, how do you see its work bolstering the University's efforts toward sexual violence prevention, education and advocacy?
“Over the last two years, the task force has been working under a “Culture of Respect” model—a national model that helps college campuses look at where they are currently in their response to sexual and relationship violence and create a program and process to improve. And I’m seeing real progress developing. It has helped us to dig in as a team and say, “where is the University, honestly, and where do we want to be?” We created some of our vision areas, like one centralized website. We’re working to make information about sexual and relationship violence easier to find, more accessible and more digestible for students.
“As far as my role, I’m an advocate at heart—I’ve been doing it for more than three decades. I am often one to raise my hand and say, ‘I wonder if any victims or survivors were consulted about this?’ or ask for more information. I am a voice for the points of view and the people who may not be in the room in the moment and am always considering how to make our work as effective as possible. I’ve loved the opportunity to get to know some of the people who are serving on the task force. I’ve seen their passion and dedication and how committed they are to doing what they can to help advance these issues. It’s really been a pleasure and an honor to serve.”
For on-campus confidential resources, students can contact the Sexual and Relationship Violence Response Team at the Barnes Center, available 24/7 by calling 315.443.8000. For further information about support services, reporting options, educational opportunities and policies, visit the University’s Sexual and Relationship Violence Resources website.