Cerritos College students ‘take back the night’


Jasmine Martinez

Cerritos College students and professors march around campus for Take Back the Night 2018. “Take Back the Night” gave students and people alike the opportunity to share their story and bring awareness of sexual assault.

Jasmine Martinez and Jackie Mena

Take Back the Night 2018 at Cerritos College came with free tacos, more diversity in terms of speakers, resources and engagement according to Valyncia Raphael, director of diversity, compliance and Title IX coordinator in human resources.

Her office was one of the main coordinators for the event’s second year, held April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“In the age of the #metoo movement,” Raphael said, “So many people have found their voice and have been able to share their ‘me too,’ but still many of [them] have not been able to share their story.”

Candlelight vigil and minute of silence was held for victims of sexual assault. Photo credit: Jasmine Martinez

Two open mic sessions were held throughout the night, giving students and people alike the opportunity to share their story or words on sexual assault.

Kawthar “Kathy” Azzam, president-elect, said, “I’m a firm believer that the more you talk about something, the more you feel like… people are there for you. I feel that if you kept it bottled up, then you wouldn’t know the support you have.”

Azzam spoke on the importance of this event and thought it was very good for the Cerritos College Campus. There are a lot of students who are victims and she wanted to let them know that they are not alone, that there are people willing to connect on an emotional level.

Tania Martin and Ashley Gomez lead the 2018 Take Back the Night march. “Take Back the Night” was held on April 11. Photo credit: Jasmine Martinez

The march around campus was led by students Tania Martin and Ashley Gomez, who shouted chants through a megaphone and encouraged other marchers to do the same.

“I feel like we should be able to be empowered in our own space,” said Gomez, “I know what it’s like to be a survivor of sexual violence, but I also know what it’s like to be the person listening.”

Gomez emphasized that experiences with sexual assault and violence is different for each person, so people cannot pretend to know what it is like.

Shortly after the march, a candlelight vigil and minute of silence was held in respect for victims, as the audience was invited to share the name of those they know and honor during the vigil.

Raphael said, “So this moment is for those people who have not been able to, for whatever reason, for fear of continued victimization, for believing that it was their fault, for believing that they were alone.”

T-Shirts with stories from victims displayed across the Cerritos College quad. Photo credit: Jasmine Martinez

“This moment is for us that are here tonight, that work tirelessly to support survivors of sexual violence. For those of us that have experienced it and maybe haven’t said anything to anyone yet. This moment is for you, so you know you are not alone,” she continued.

Tears were shed during the open mic sessions and the audience remained attentive. People politely gave comfort and support while listening attentively to those who spoke.

“Everybody is a survivor, some people just haven’t realized it yet,” said Gomez.

Azzam said, “I think this is extremely important for our campus, to really be a community and really be there for one another.

“At the end of the day, I feel that having a good and strong community will really be beneficial to any student here,” she finished.

Raphael believed the event was successful and is excited and thinking about ideas for next year.