Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission) today hosted a statewide Campus Safety Summit focusing on some of higher education’s most challenging issues. More than 140 representatives of the state’s public four- and two- year colleges and universities, along with independent institutions, gathered to discuss awareness, prevention and response surrounding suicide, sexual violence and communicable diseases.
“These individuals are on the frontlines at colleges and universities across West Virginia working to not only educate and inspire students – but also to protect those students and everyone on our campuses,” said Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. “These subject matters are difficult to manage, and they are certainly difficult to discuss. But our statewide higher education community has the power to turn these challenging issues into stories of greater awareness, successful prevention and effective responses.”
Liz Seccuro, victims’ rights activist and author of Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice, provided keynote remarks regarding her story of survival and how West Virginia campuses can prevent and respond to campus sexual violence.
“Liz bravely shares her story of survival and her own fight for justice, and we were grateful to welcome her to West Virginia,” said Paul Hill, the Commission’s Chancellor. “We must be ever vigilant about the issue of campus sexual violence – and protecting students, faculty, staff and our entire campus communities on multiple fronts.”
Additional panelists included: Barri Faucett, West Virginia Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention (ASPEN) Project; Dr. Al Kasprowicz, WELLWVU Carruth Center for Psychological and Psychiatric Services at West Virginia University; Katie Clifford, J.D., The NCHERM Group; Lois Manns, West Virginia Foundation for Rape and Information Services; Dr. Guy Sims, Bluefield State College; Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer; Sharon Lansdale, Center for Rural Health Development; and Dr. William Pewen, Marshall University.
MEDIA NOTE: Liz Seccuro’s bio and photo are below.
Liz Seccuro is a victims’ rights advocate and the founder of STARS (Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors), a donor-advised fund that assists all survivors of rape, sexual assault, and incest. Seccuro also teaches a few classes a year at Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Journalism on how to write responsibly about sex crimes and the art of interviewing victims of violence.
As documented in her 2011 memoir Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice, her story began in 1984 when she was drugged and raped by a fellow student, William Nottingham Beebe, as a 17-year-old freshman at the University of Virginia. The university did nothing to aid her in seeking justice and offered no official remedy, leaving her on her own to pick up the pieces. It wasn’t until 2005—after receiving a letter of apology from Beebe inviting her to contact him so that he could explain what led him to rape her and, ostensibly, help her heal—that she was able to take action against him. Following a frightening and eerie email correspondence with her rapist, she submitted her evidence to the Charlottesville Police Department, who arrested Beebe. He was ultimately sentenced to 18 months in prison and required to perform 500 hours of community service, including speaking on college campuses about sexual assault and substance abuse. To this day, there is no record of this condition of parole being met.
Since the publication of Crash Into Me, Liz Seccuro has appeared on a multitude of national television shows, radio shows, blogs, and magazines. Most notably, a three-part excerpt of her book was featured in Marie Claire magazine, both nationally and abroad. In 2011, she received the Shining Star/Vision Award from Boston’s Victim Rights Law Center and in November 2012 she was honored by SAVI/NYC of Mt. Sinai Hospital for her advocacy, joining past honorees such as prosecutor and author Linda Fairstein, Trisha Meili (the “Central Park Jogger”), and actress Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In January 2013, she was named to the national advisory board of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and continues to lobby on Capitol Hill with RAINN on behalf of survivors of violent crime. A frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, she is at work on a number of magazine articles on the scourge of military sexual assault and the NFL’s culture of violence.