April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, prompting students to speak out about the issue and engage in empowering events about the distinction between love and abuse. To raise awareness, the I Am That Girl club hosted a Take Back the Night event Wednesday.
Take Back the Night, a two part event, featured an awareness presentation at noon in the Campus Center and a silent march in honor of sexual assault victims at 8:30 p.m., starting from Johnson Family Plaza.
“I want to create La Verne as a safe space for both on and off campus, where if something happens and you see it, you have to step up and say something about it,” said Autumn Simon, club president and senior journalism major.
“The kinds of things they’re putting forth are essential; about body image, sexual abuse, and all the topics about positive empowerment,” said Alma Martinez, club adviser and artist-in-residence in the theater department.
Roughly 30 people scattered the room for the presentation with a dominant majority of women. The presentation began with Simon involving everyone to participate in “The Consent Game,” which challenged the audience to determine if presented situations featured consent or harassment.
“This really opened my eyes since the situation given just seemed like a normal interaction, but it turned out to be a form of sexual assault or harassment that made women extremely uncomfortable,” Ethan Spencer, sophomore accounting major, said.
The presentation also included representatives from domestic violence programs including House of Ruth and Project Sister. Each representative spoke on the importance of identifying types of abuse and the available resources in their cities.
A type of abuse commonly overlooked is financial abuse, and it is one of the main reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. Since their partners use monetary means as leverage, victims are often prevented from leaving a toxic situation.
“It’s all about power and control,” Katrina Beltran, a representative from House of Ruth, said.
Beltran also brought up the term “gaslighting,” which occurs when someone manipulates their partner psychologically to make them question their own sanity.
“Young people who have never experienced any abuse don’t know they’re in it. They think that there’s something wrong with them, when in reality it’s gaslighting,” Martinez said.
IATG will be hosting more awareness events throughout April. The club meets 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. every Wednesday in the President’s Dining Room.
Deborah Lee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.