SPEAKing up about sexual violence

SPEAK Week addresses critical issues affecting our community

Conley Hurst

Last week, the Washington and Lee Community gathered together in support of a life-changing cause through the an- nual SPEAK Week. The week consisted of a series of events focused on raising awareness about sexual violence.

“Take Back the Night,” a vigil hosted on Thursday evening, brought the week to an emotional close in which members of the university community shared their own poems, songs, and stories about sexual violence. Wednesday night fea- tured a viewing of “It Happened Here,” a documentary that explores sexual as- sault on college campuses through the eyes of individual students.

Probably the most energetic event of the week was Tuesday night’s “Stand Up, SPEAK Out,” a kick-off concert that featured musical performances, a bake sale, a Southern Tide raffle, and free pizza. The profits from the raffle and the bake sale went towards Project Horizon, an organization dedicated to reducing sexual and domestic violence in the Rockbridge area, and The Fac- ing Project, an organization that looks to strengthen communities through the sharing of stories.

Many W&L students shared their mu- sical talents at the event, all in support of a good cause. The event also included performances by student groups such as General Admission, Jubilee, and South-

ern Comfort. Singer/songwriters Megan Davies and Keelan Donovan both trav- eled from Nashville to participate.

From the hour I spent listening and performing at the concert, I was struck by the number of students who either stayed for the entire event or stopped by for a few minutes to listen. Overall, people seemed interested and engaged, something quite rare given the busy life- styles we all lead.

According to junior Teddy Corcoran, one of the organizers of the event, com- munity engagement is most important with these kinds of events and causes. “I think the level of interest around the event demonstrated just how important the issue of sexual violence is,” said Corcoran. “It’s something that affects our entire community, and I think our entire community demonstrated that we would make some meaningful steps towards raising awareness and making meaningful change.”

There is much progress yet to be made in the W&L community and beyond be- fore the specter of sexual violence is eradicated. But through attending and promoting such simple, fun events like “Stand Up, SPEAK Out,” we are taking the first step: raising awareness of the problem itself.