URGE holds Candlelight Vigil to honor survivors of sexual assault


Anjali Tamang

Guests gather for the Candlelight Vigil enjoying the ambience before the event begins. Various speakers representing organizations were invited to speak to advocate for the survivors.

On April 18, Washburn Counseling Services and Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity hosted a Candlelight Vigil to draw attention to sexual assault and express support for survivors. It was a collaborative initiative that also included the Young Women’s Christian Association and the Washburn Student Government Association.

The purpose of the vigil was to create an intimate and respectful environment by using candles as a symbol, with the focus on healing and survivorship of sexual assault.

Hannah Whaley, a first-year social work student and the social media and design marketer for URGE, introduced the event’s goal and reminded the participants about trigger warnings and how the topics that would be discussed could cause certain emotions in them.

“We advocated the event by referring to it as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and informing them of what they were getting themselves into. We reached out with our speakers to make sure to be aware of others and how it is often a heavy subject for a lot of people,” Whaley said.

Chloe Chaffin, a junior in political science and the president of URGE, spoke about the tradition of candlelight vigils that began years ago.

“I thought it was important to bring it back starting last year and this is our second year making it a tradition. I think it is really important because while college can really help people to grow and be stronger version of themselves, it can also undeniably be the hotspot for sexual assault,” Chaffin said.

She also stated that she wants individuals to know that there is a safe place for them to process their narratives and that there are resources available to help them.

Multiple speakers from different departments of Washburn spoke about sexual assault and its impact on the individual and showed support on the issue. They also talked about how there is social stigma for the survivors who open up about their experiences and how these experiences affect them more than they let themselves into.

Joanna Marks, junior in political science and director of diversity, equity and inclusion for WSGA, expressed how this event made her feel supported and that other students, faculty and staff are aware of the issue and are advocating for a safe environment for the survivors.

According to Marks, in order for the survivors to heal, they need to be able to talk about their experience in a safe and confidential environment. She also shared her thoughts on how consent and sex education should be taught to teenagers in order to make them aware of sexual violence.

“People don’t know a lot of sexual assault happens in teenagers because they are not aware of how sex and consent works on them. They might not even be aware that they may be sexually assaulting someone at that age,” Marks said.

As the candlelight vigil came to a close, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of fellowship and commitment. Candles were lit, and people stood in silence to reflect on the impact of sexual violence and the need for change.

Chaffin noted that students are encouraged to look forward to a table in Memorial Union in upcoming weeks from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. that will provide general information on sex education and self-managed abortion.


Edited by Aja Carter and Simran Shrestha