Organization brings awareness, support to sexual assault victims

Students gather for candlelight vigil during SPEAK’s annual“Take Back the Night” event


Xiaoxia Yin

SPEAK hosted its annual feature event, “Take Back the Night: Share Your Story,” on Thursday to raise awareness of sexual assault and misconduct.

SPEAK is a student organization aimed to bring awareness to the occurrence of sexual misconduct in colleges across the country and prevent further incidents in the Washington and Lee and Rockbridge communities.

Students and faculty members met in the Great Hall of the Science Center to listen to stories from students who shared opinions about sexual assault and misconduct.

LeGrand Northcutt, ‘17, SPEAK Vice President, encouraged people to pray for the victims of the sexual misconduct during the event. Northcutt said that besides raising awareness of sexual assault, the event was also designed to support the survivors of sexual misbehavior. “[Looking] back to the history of the event as it goes along the

country, we made this annual event to show our support to the survivors by making a space for people talking about these issues,” said Northcutt.

John Ahn, ‘19, also spoke during the event.

“It’s an important and special event because we can share and listen to the stories of actual people who experienced sexual assault, which is important for raising the awareness,” Ahn said.

After the speakers, SPEAK student leaders led a candlelight march through the Science Center to the Colonnade.

SPEAK President Caroline Todd, ‘17, led the candlelight march. She was proud that so many people showed up for the event.

“I’m always excited to see how supportive everyone in the community is and how much we take care of the safety of the community

and our friends,” Todd said. Todd also spoke about the general role SPEAK plays on campus

and in the Rockbridge community. “[SPEAK is] an organization that forces everyone to have accountability of their own actions and encourages you to think deeply about the ramifications and actions within the larger community,” Todd said. “We are not necessarily the watchdog of the community, but an organization that keeps people accountable.”

Janet Boller, W&L Clinical Psychologist, believes the event creates a supportive environment for victims of sexual assault and misconduct.

“The event gives an opportunity for people to stand together in support of people who experience something that dramatic,” Boller said. SPEAK Faculty Advisor Jan Kaufman said the event “offers some optimism for the survivors of sexual misconduct” for the goal of

eliminating sexual misbehavior on college campuses. “The sexual assault and misconduct that happens in the colleges is real,” said Kaufman. “We [SPEAK] do believe that we can race to

lower the incidence, and also prevent sexual assault in general.”