Women’s Empowerment Holds Speak Out for Survivors of Sexual Assault


Pia Fischetti/The Fordham Ram

Women’s Empowerment hosted a “Speakout” event for survivors of sexual assault in Rodrigue’s Coffee House.

Editor’s Note: This article contains mention of sexual assault culture.

Every semester, Women’s Empowerment (WE) holds a “Speakout” in Rodrigue’s Coffee House to provide a safe space for survivors of sexual assault. On Tuesday, Oct. 22, survivors and allies gathered for this semester’s event, filling the coffee shop’s seating and supporting those who spoke.

According to Aine Boyle, FCRH ’20, general coordinator of WE, the club makes an effort to have the event coincide with the Week of Action at Fordham in the fall.

“I think it’s helpful for people to have an outlet for anything that might come up during an awareness week,” she said. “Also, I’ve found, having organized and participated in six or seven at this point, that some participants create community and support systems at speak outs.”

Although the Speak Out usually draws a large amount of WE members, Elise Zimmerman, FCRH ’20, logistics coordinator, said it is open to the entire Fordham community, and well-publicized to make students aware of its existence.

According to their Facebook page, Rodrigue’s regards itself as a “safer space,” and encourages its patrons to respect the personhood of their peers by refraining from homophobic, sexist and racist actions or dialect within the building.

Boyle said that although the event can vary, it typically takes on an open-mic format, where people share their experiences in any way they prefer: through stories, poems, songs, or just yelling for three minutes.

Zimmerman said WE chooses to hold its event in Rodrigue’s in part due to this policy, and they open the event by reading its requests aloud. They also read WE’s community standards, which require respect, honesty and confidentiality, in order to ensure trust between every one who attends.

“It is a very intimate setting because we want everyone that attends to feel comfortable and supported, especially because this is a really difficult event for most people to attend,” she said. “In this space, people can come prepared with a poem or song, or can speak from their heart.”

Although she said the event is usually very emotional, it can be quite healing.

“I always leave, relieved to have been apart of it,” Boyle said.

Zimmerman says WE intends to continue this event every semester, as they feel it is their responsibility to provide a safe and supportive space on campus for survivors of sexual assault. Boyle agreed.

“It is always clear to me when I am listening to the speakers that the experience always benefits people either by providing an outlet, validating a story or creating a community of people who can learn from each other’s healing experiences,” she said.