By Ruth Calcoa
Sonia Rivera, director of the Sexual Assault Program at the East Los Angeles Women’s Center, said her objective is to stop violence on campus.
Violence seems to be escalating each year, according to Rivera. Rivera visits campuses from middle schools to universities to raise more awareness on domestic violence and the dangers it poses.
“Parents are usually the last to know. We as peers, friends, teachers and faculty need to open our eyes and ask ourselves ‘what can we do?’” Sandra Ibarra, prevention education coordinator at the center, said. This is the seventh year that both women have come to ELAC promoting services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
One method they use to raise awareness for Domestic Violence Month was by screening “A Survivor’s Story,” on campus last Thursday. Pamphlets were handed out containing information on how students could get involved and help out other people in need. Introductions were made and students were able to voice their questions and concerns at the beginning of the screening.
The film was divided into four sections, which were witnessing, childhood, adolescence and healing. A photo of a young five-year-old girl appeared on the screen, faded and then a woman in her 40s appeared.
The woman was named Olga Trujillo. She began reminiscing of having to watch her mother be physically abused by her father. Throughout the film a new horror was revealed as she described how she was physically and sexually abused. She shared an incident when the police were called due to domestic violence. They arrived to her house but she was too afraid to tell them what happened.
“If I would‘ve felt safer I would‘ve said I was afraid of my father, or more,” said Trujillo. After Trujillo spoke, one student spoke out about how she had sought help from an officer after she had been physically abused. All the officer said was “Just cool down and walk home.”
There was one memory in particular that she shared that made everyone gasp. She described an incident when she was seven-years-old. It was the day of her first communion and her family gathered to celebrate. She had the perfect white dress on, but what no one knew at the time was that just downstairs her father was raping her right before they all left for church.
She explained that through this tough ordeal, she had a coping mechanism for each and every time she was abused. She would think up of an imaginary cupboard, like the ones kids have at school, and she’d put her memories and pain in that cupboard to ease the pain.
Ibarra ended the screening by saying that the effects of abuse are never the same. She says that in her 12 years of speaking at ELAC, as well as at South Gate, Santa Fe Springs and Highland Park she feels it has definitely been beneficial to students.
The East Los Angeles Women’s Center is located at 1255 S. Atlantic boulevard. It offers a variety of programs and services, as well as training for those who would like to become volunteers and help other women and children affected by any type of violence.