On-campus task force hosts night to honor victims of assault


David Jenkins

Jessica Summers leads a march around campus to start off the event “Take Back the Night” in oppsosition against sexual assault on Wednesday, April 26. Chants like “Yes means yes” and “My body my right” were said throughout out the march. Photo credit: David Jenkins

Lindsay Helberg

Voices rang out at night as students dressed in black, carrying signs denouncing sexual violence marched from Falcon Square across the Cerritos College campus chanting, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no,” during the Take Back the Night event held on Wednesday, April 26.

Take Back the Night event is typically held at night to symbolize reclaiming safety on dark streets. The event also featured a candlelight vigil honoring victims and survivors of sexual and relationship violence.

The Diversity and Title IX Compliance Task Force commonly referred to as “SIXTA” by its members, hosted their first Take Back the Night event ever on campus to raise awareness for sexual assault and sexual violence.

Speech Communications major Jessica Summers hosted the Cerritos College event.

She is head of outreach for SIXTA and since the Task Force was founded just last fall and didn’t have their first official meeting until January, this is its first event.

Valyncia Raphael, Director of Diversity, Compliance, Title IX Coordinator and Co-Advisor of SIXTA, credits a collaborative effort through campus networks and clubs for working together and pulling off the event.

She said, “It is immeasurable! I definitely knew they could pull it off, but just how successful the event was with the planning, getting volunteers, the communication, I am just really, really proud and I am excited to see how we build on this success for next year.”

For the event Summers reached out to Planned Parenthood, Children Crisis Shelter and the YWCA who offered counseling support for the event.

“There were about five or six regular members who got the ball rolling, but from there everyone wanted to volunteer and be a part of it. Once people heard about it, it just snowballed,” Summers said.

This is Summers’ first Take Back the Night event, but as a transgender student on campus she wanted to do something that targeted sexual assault.

“I live with fear every day. The bathroom situation is something I fear and I can’t even come close to the kind of pain people who have been victims feel,” she solemnly said.

Summers, who came out last June, decided to come to Cerritos College again last fall semester as Jessica. After asking her speech professor which bathroom she could use, there was no clear answer.

For a while she said it felt like she was the only transgender student on campus, although she knew there were others.

“Not everyone wants people to know, but I want my story told because of the people who don’t want to speak up. Somebody has to do it,” Summers said.

The result of her inquiry has brought attention to this issue and recently all single use bathrooms on campus are labeled as “gender neutral.”

Summers hopes she had something to do with this change and is grateful to Cerritos College for being so welcoming and so open.

She said seeing people tell their story at Take Back the Night gave her strength. “My goal today was to reach one person. I was really happy that people were able to tell their story and feel safe enough to do so because I know that is the hardest part. They all gave me so much courage.”

Sheetal Chib, Director of Sexual Assault Crisis Services, for the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles, a community based resource that provides free services to survivors of sexual assault.

Chib attended the event in support of Cerritos College and its first Take Back the Night event.

Chib said, “It’s an amazing milestone to be present for this. We want to be here to support the campus community around the issue of gender-based violence and also to let survivors know that there are places they can go for help.”

Chib also said the YWCA had two volunteers at the event available as crisis counselors because one of the most difficult things for survivors is speaking out for the first time and sharing their stories.

“What we see sometimes is that there are emotional reactions that come up during the process. Take Back the Night is a supportive space that has been created so people almost provide that peer support, but sometimes we do see people reaching out to our crisis counselors,” Chib said.

Art Hanney, theater arts major and ASCC Senator spoke for the first time publicly at Wednesday’s event about his niece who was in a relationship with a man that she no longer wanted to be with.

She was in the process of breaking up with him, but the man did not want that to happen. Instead, he took the claw end of a hammer to her head while her child was in the bed with her.

Hanney recalled being told that he needed to go to her in the hospital right away because the chances of her surviving were slim.

“Today, she is alive, she is well but it affected each and every member of our family. It will affect your brothers, it will affect your sisters and it will stay that way. So, I want you to know, from me to you, you are loved, you are appreciated for what you do and for standing up to this violence, for the heinous crimes that are happening today. I want you to know I am proud of you for standing up,” Hanney stated.

Hanney’s dream is that a woman can walk down the street without being harassed and that sexual assault will be a thing of the past.

Child Development major Christy came to participate in her first Take Back the Night event because she heard about it from a friend.

“I thought it was a wonderful evening. Not a lot of people speak up when it comes to violence and rape because they feel alone, so it was great to see a group of men and women speaking up. It is a very hard thing to do, but it is part of the healing process,” Christy said.

Watching some of the survivors have the strength to stand up in front of their peers and share their stories at such a young age made her think about her past.

She talked about the domestic violence she went through when she was their age and the isolation she felt.

This event gave her hope and said she was looking forward to coming back the following year to possibly share her story.

Raphael helped bring the SIXTA Task Force to the campus.

The task force is slightly different than a club organization wise; SIXTA was created through an ASCC legislation and any student can be apart of it.

Raphael said since Cerritos didn’t have a student organization whose sole purpose was primary prevention like other schools, SIXTA bridges that gap by providing student advocacy and organizes events focusing on primary prevention and awareness of topics related to gender-based violence and gender equity.

Amber Dofner, Co-Advisor of the SIXTA task force, Facilitator for Student Equity, Title IX Coordinator and Cross Cultural Resources, believes ASCC Senate should help fund Take Back the Night because it is something that is affecting the community.

Dofner noted that in the past year alone she believes there have been two incidents of forcible fondling on campus. “If we want to promote safety and respect for everyone, we have to show that we support it,” Dofner said.

She also mentioned that it is very common for sexual violence to occur amongst college students and it is a goal to make sure students have the knowledge they need to help not only themselves but to help their friends as well.

The Take Back the Night foundation data states that 1 in 3 women worldwide experience some form of sexual violence or intimate partner violence and 1 in 6 men experience sexual violence. Less than 50 percent of these victims report crimes.

This event is part of a coordinated national and international effort that dates back to the 1970’s when it started in England.

The Take Back the Night event itself, however, started in 2001 by a group of women in the United States that participated in the earlier marches and it has taken off from there.

Take Back the Night is a student-run event aimed at raising awareness and shattering the silence surrounding sexual violence, domestic violence and rape, that affects all genders with different sexual orientations.

Today events are held every year in over 30 countries worldwide and across college campuses nationwide. April was designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the 1990’s.

SIXTA plans on making the Take Back the Night an annual event for as many years possible.

YWCA 24- Hour Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline



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