Candlelight vigil unites community

UNITED THROUGH A CAUSE— Rebecca Melendez leads crowd of victims and supporters down Cesar Chavez Avenue protesting the end of silence to the cycles of abuse and domestic violence.
CN/ Giselle Palomera
TOGETHER WE STAND—Community comes together with signs to end domestic violence in front of Our Lady Guadalupemural on Mednick and Cesar Chavez Avenue.

By Giselle Palomera

Victims and supporters marched in protest against the cycle of domestic abuse down Cesar Chavez Avenue with East Los Angeles Women’s Center at the Mujeres de Paz vigil and walk on Thursday, featuring guest speaker Rose McGowan.

The march was led by Rebeca Melendez from the ELAWC and was sponsored by East Los Angeles College, Sexual Assault Awareness Violence Education team and the ELAC Feminist Club.

Posters read, “Nuestras voices no seran silenciadas” and “Hands are for hugging not hurting” as supporters and victims marched in protest against the silent cycle of domestic abuse down Cesar Chavez Avenue.

Men, women and children marched in solidarity as they chanted, “Love shouldn’t hurt.”

The march ended at the ELAC Performing Arts Center courtyard with a candlelight vigil, which featured a ritual Aztec dance, victims’ testimonies and guest speakers.

At the vigil, supporters and victims alike stood in a moment of silence for those who lost their lives to domestic violence, and the victims of the Las Vegas massacre, which left 59 dead.

The moment of silence was also to pay tribute to those affected by the hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico.

Victims of domestic violence spoke about their experiences as the crowd held candles in support.

Actress, director, activist and victim of domestic violence Rose McGowan spoke about her experience being a survivor.  

“It took a car accident, my dad dying, my dogs dying, to just kind of shake my brain awake, because you kind of go to sleep in a way and you just become a passenger in your own body. It’s very strange,” said McGowan.

McGowan has worked for the ELAWC in the past, helping raise money for survivors of rape, and has also endured problems relating to sexual abuse in Hollywood. She is currently outing her rapist in The New York Times.

In 2015, McGowan was fired from the talent agency Innovative Artists after speaking out about the way they encouraged the sexualization of women through their clothes.

Her anger was her fuel for justice and said, “It’s not my shame or my scarlet letter to wear.”

Other victims also spoke out about their experiences.

“Abuse is subtle. First they start by taking away your phone, checking for texts and pictures. Then they start controlling where you go,” said Develyn Brooks, a recent survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

“At first he was very sweet and loving, then about three months in, he started acting jealous and taking my phone to see what I had in my messages and pictures. Then he would tell his friends, ‘Hey, why are you looking at my girl?’” Brooks has been out of the abusive relationship for 34 days now, while sustaining multiple physical and emotional damages.

Regardless of the efforts, organizations like ELAWC are made to end the cycles of abuse and domestic violence. One in four women are still affected.

According to the pamphlets handed out during the march and vigil, ELAWC offered services to over 10,000 individuals last year.

From those 25 percent were homeless, 85 percent were living in poverty and 60 percent were Spanish speaking immigrants.

The services provided by the ELAWC are offered in Spanish and English due to the fact that the majority of victims receiving services are Spanish speaking victims.

This is the twentieth year that the Mujeres de Paz walk has been organized.

It continues to grow as more supporters and sponsors join the cause.

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