By Annette Quijada
The East Los Angeles Women’s Center has taken action to inform that sexual assault is a topic that must be talked about to boys and men and the importance of identifying the factors that contribute to sexual assault.
With two weeks left in Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the ELAWC hosted a wokshop on “Engaging Boys and Men To End Sexual Assault.” Workshop facilitators included advocate specialist Luis Mendoza and prevention specialist Osvaldo Cruz.
Mendoza said men are role models and should be first when it comes to speaking on these issues.
Men have the capacity to intervene when they witness violence, Mendoza said.
Mendoza’s most crucial point is that boys and men also experience and suffer due to sexual violence.
In the presentation “learned behaviors” was listed as an important factor in what contributes to sexual assault.
Cruz used a common example of when their girls take a fall, family parents specifically are quick to attend and comfort them.
But when it’s a boy, they’re told to “man up” and that “Boys don’t cry,” Cruz said.
“Boys pick up the behaviors that they see and if their family values are unhealthy, they embrace those same values in and end up reinforcing those values outside in society.”
When Mendoza asked where boys are supposed to learn how men behave, audience members replied with “parents, siblings, and cousins” are the ones who are supposed to be the teachers to boys.
Cruz said these are common answers, but people can’t turn a blind eye to the influence of society, media, and popular culture.
Parents and family will not always be around their children and they can not control what they see or do outside of their homes. Cruz said, that once boys enter the real world and become men, it’s their responsibility to know that there’s others looking at how they carry themselves in society and that young boys are looking to them.
Cruz said the real challenge and work lies in having those difficult discussions with family and friends when one of them decides to make an inappropriate comment.
“The hardest work that we have to do when eradicating domestic violence and sexual assault primarily with boys and men is not the work that we are doing here right now. It’s not this presentation, this work comes easy. The hardest is the work that we have to do at home.” Cruz said.
“If (family or friends) refuse to make a commitment with you (to change), then you may have to sever your ties, you may have to say to the relative that if they’re going to continue to say inappropriate comments, then you know what, they’re no longer welcomed into my home. ” Cruz said.
Cruz said it’s important for boys and men not just to hear the messages from workshops, but that they hear it from other men around them.
“Sexual violence against women and children and other men is also a men’s issue,” Mendoza said.
Cruz and Mendoza both shared the hope that in 10 or 20 years, they can eradicate or minimize domestic violence and sexual assault. The pandemic has caused a surge in sexual assault.
The National Sexaul Assault hotline reported a 22% increase in monthly calls since the pandemic started in March of 2020, with most of them coming from people younger than 18.
Men and women looking for support regarding sexual assault or domestic violence are encouraged to reach out to the East LA Women’s Center.
Their services include individual therapy, support groups, parenting classes and legal case managements.
The phone number to their main office is (323)526-5819. The East Los Angeles Crisis free and confidential hotline can be reached 24/7 at (800)585-6231.