By Keyla Lopez
Emotions ran high Thursday evening at the third annual ‘Take Back the Night’ event as sexual assault survivors shared their experiences.
‘Take Back the Night’ events encourage survivors to break their silence and provide them with a safe and supporting environment where they don’t have to feel ashamed or alone over what they’ve been through.
Sonia Rivera, director of Sexual Assault and Emergency Services at the East Los Angeles Women’s Center.
Rivera and Tiffany Rice, Violence Intervention Team leader and Psychology professor at ELAC, invited students to attend the event to raise awareness on the issue of Sexual Assault.
Before inviting attendees to speak, Rivera shared the story of a 91-year-old grandmother who was sexually abused when she was younger and had not told anyone until she was that age.
“The burden that people carry when they hold this in is so sad,” Rivera said.
According to one in four, one in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape.
Approximately 40 percent of sexual assaults take place in the survivor’s home.
About 20 percent occur in the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative. Ten percent occur outside, away from home and about eight percent take place in parking garages.
Unfortunately, 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
“Survivors deal with criticism and judgment from others for what happened to them. They live in fear. Often they feel like they are to blame and that it was their fault, so they opt to keep quiet and not speak of it,” Rivera said.
Those present at the event welcomed survivors to share their stories.
To make the speakers feel more comfortable with speaking about their traumatizing experiences, they were given the added incentive that whatever was said in the room, would stay there.
“It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, where you were, who you were with – no means no. A victim shouldn’t blame themselves and they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up because there are others who have been through the same situation. They’re not alone,” Rice said.
The East Los Angeles Women’s Center provides services to women and children, focusing on sexual, domestic, and family violence and HIV/AIDS as they work to empower and give hope to families, individuals and the Community as a whole.
For more information, visit elawc.org or to get help, contact their rape and battering hotline at 800-585-6231.
The ELAC Violence Intervention Team, also known as VIT, is composed of a group of faculty, staff, administrators and community professionals who are dedicated to violence prevention and intervention.
By raising awareness, educating people about the different types of violence and providing resources, the violence intervention team helps the ELAC campus community to never have to accept excuses or be afraid to speak up.
To seek assistance on campus, contact the Violence Intervention Center at 323-780-6754.