‘Take Back the Night’ raises sexual assault awareness

By Amber Paramo

“Take Back the Night” brought support to victims of sexual assault while they shared their stories at Ingalls Auditorium on April 30.

The event is to raise awareness on all forms of sexual abuse and to encourage victims feel comfortable when speaking about it.

Candles were distributed to the audience for a candlelight march around the East Los Angeles College campus, in honor of all victims of sexual assault.

The participants consisted of students, staff, friends, family and counselors. The event allowed victims of sexual assault to discuss how it has impacted their life and share personal stories of how they or someone they know have been coping.

Sonia Rivera, Director of Sexual Assault and Emergency Services for the Women’s Center, encouraged the audience to share their stories of sexual abuse.

At first no volunteers spoke up therefore, Rivera suggested that if no wanted to stand and speak in front of the audience she was more than welcome to hand over the microphone to where they were seated.

Although the stories that were told were heartbreaking, each speaker showed strength and courage as they volunteered to speak in front of the audience.

The room was filled with support and respect that empowered more people to walk up to the podium and share their story.

The members of East Los Angeles Women’s Center showed support to each student who shared their story by letting them know that they are not alone and this is the beginning of the healing process.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel towards healing and healthy relationships,” Rivera said.

Almost every student who shared their story said they felt better now that they told someone.

One student who spoke said she use to think that she was broken and damaged, but now  she is thankful for the help she received.

A few audience members who were not victims shared stories of how it happened to someone they know. They also gave advice and strength to victims as an offering of support.

Another ELAC student who spoke said she was not there to be ashamed of it anymore. She said it was tough, but it is not the victim’s fault and they will be okay, eventually.

Another speaker said she knew it was a bad experience, but she was going to try and take some good out of it. She hopes her voice will make a difference, especially towards the community.

Although “Take Back the Night,” was the last event of the sexual assault awareness month, awareness does not end with this event. There are year round resources available to anyone at ELAC’s Women Center.

“There’s a big number of sexual assaults that occur,” Rivera said.

ELAC Women’s Center is open to all and offers resources that help heal, support and empower.  ELAWC helps establish healthy relationships, find inner peace, network with others, educate, create stability and more.

Most resources available are free of charge. ELAWC is a confidential, safe and an important place to get help. Its focus is to offer support and help everyone stop violence and speak up when it happens.

Domestic violence happens not only to women, but also to men.  ELAWC now offers a “Men’s Circle,” that allows men to join a critical conversation about sexual assaults and family violence specifically for men.

The meetings start May 5 and runs until June 2. The circle starts at 5-6:30 p.m. located at ELAC Campus, G1-301F.

ELAC Women’s Center encourages victims to speak about abuse problems they may have- whether it is to friends, family and counselors or even to the 24-hour hotline. The free, bilingual, crisis support hotline number is 800-585-6231.

For more information on the “Men’s Circle” contact Ozzie Cruz at 323-526-5819 or ocruz@elawc.org.

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