By Damien Guzman
Students filled the foyer of East Los Angeles College’s Ingalls Auditorium last Thursday night for sexual assault awareness month’s assembly and candlelit march, “Take Back the Night.”
The powerful and impactful event which gave those affected by sexual assault an open platform to discuss the way sexual assault has impacted their lives.
Organizers passed out lit candles to attendants for a candlelight march up Avenida Cesar Chavez and circled back to the auditorium passing the administration buildings, as the candles lit up the scene.
Many students walked by the large group curious to know about the meaning of the walk and organizers were quick to explain the mission.
The event aims to raise awareness on all forms of sexual abuse.
The meeting has an objective of encouraging victims of sexual violence to feel comfortable in speaking out about the subject.
Sonia Rivera, Director of Sexual Assault and Emergency Services for the Women’s Center, began the assembly by explaining what the center does and then encouraged those in attendance to step up to the podium and share their stories of sexual abuse.
At first, no volunteers spoke up. Rivera turned the situation into a question and answer type of discussion and attendants began to ask questions and make comments about the subject.
“Usually it’s a little bit slow for them to come up and is usually quiet for a while, but opening up a discussion is usually good for them to feel comfortable,” Rivera said.
As time went by, more and more victims bravely walked up to the podium and shared their stories with the audience. Some speakers cried and each took their time telling their story.
Counselors comforted those who needed it and even some of the attendants came up to support their friends or teammates.
The event turned into an inspiring and uplifting presentation of people coming together to support one another.
A round of applause was given as speakers stepped up to the podium and more applause followed after each speaker was done with the microphone.
“Even though I came for the extra credit, the experience and the stories affected me deeply,” ELAC student Jose Verduzco said.
Although emotions ran high from the heartbreaking stories that were told, speaker showed strength and courage as they volunteered to speak in front of a large audience.
People listening to the stories showed respect and patience to the speakers as they struggled to get their stories out.
Rivera accompanied the speakers to the podium in case emotions ran too high.
The room filled with sadness but the stories shared were ones of survival and made the situation positive because now they used their experience to help other victims speak out.
The volunteer speakers offered support and guidance to other victims. They encouraged victims to speak to friends, family, counselors and even call sexual abuse 24-hour hotlines about abuse problems they may have.
Rivera was impressed with the attendance and increasing support the event is receiving.
“Each year its been growing a little bit more. The first event was really small,” Rivera said.
Many of ELAC’s current football team players were in attendance. Rivera acknowledged the ELAC football team and thanked them for showing support every year since the assemblies started on campus five years ago.