Activists discuss violence

Perry Continente, twitter.com/perrycontinente

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Sexual Violence Awareness Week continued with the Walk Against Sexual Violence, an event that consisted of a speech, followed by a brief march protesting sex trafficking and sexual violence.

LMC president Bob Kratochivil briefly introduced the event, giving his support and expressing hope that LMC becomes an even safer campus.

After Kratochivil, Jocelyn Villalobos introduced the presenters and talked about the walk.

Villalobos said, “I don’t know if you have seen anything on social media about this, but this is going to be a silent walk.”

Participants in the walk wrote the names of people they knew who had been trafficked on scarves and carried signs opposing sexual violence.

The main presenter, Venessa Russel, is the founder of the nonprofit Love Never Fails, a program designed to combat sex trafficking by getting the survivors the help they need and giving them tools to reclaim their lives.

Russel is the recipient of many awards including the 2017 Cisco Hero Award and IDC Activist of the Year in 2015.

Russel opened her speech by explaining her personal connection to sexual violence. “I had quite a challenging childhood,” said Russel before explaining that her father was physically abusive and forced her and her mother to relocate to San Francisco.

Her time in the city was far from idyllic as Russel and her mother arrived with almost no money. “I experienced a great deal of abuse,” she said. “I know firsthand what it means to be sexually violated.”

Russel went on to teach dance and art, wanting to give back to the community and improve the lives of impoverished people.

“I wanted to get kids artistically involved,” she said. “Give them something to do on a Friday night.”

This all changed for Russel when she found that one of her students was the victim of sex trafficking. “One of my 15 year-olds was sold up and down California for a year,” she said. This experience profoundly changed Russel’s course in life. “It was like taking off the blinders.”

Russel turned to her faith for guidance and came to the conclusion that, “you don’t need to cure world hunger; you don’t need to boil the ocean. You just have to love one person at a time.”

Russel’s nonprofit is now active in the Bay Area, creating programs to help survivors transition into a better life through classes and housing. According to Russel the average age of those abused is 13 to 14 and the average lifespan for a person being trafficked is seven years.

Following Russel’s presentation, Lieutenant Chad Wehrmeister and Senior Dean of Student Services Gail Newman briefly took the stage to explain their efforts in making LMC a safer campus.

Wehrmeister and Newman are both members of the Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education team, which provides services for single parents at LMC.

Werhmeister emphasized the importance of affirmative consent. “We used to say ‘no means no,’” he said. “What we are saying now is you need a verbal affirmative.”

After the speeches, several students marched out to Parking Lot A and protested facing the road, appealing to the surrounding community.

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