Awareness Day draws emotional response

Saddleback College’s Clothesline Project delicately showcased domestic abuse victim’s stories. (Joseph Espiritu)

Courtney Johnson

Violence, rape, and abuse are issues that plague our society more than people care to acknowledge. Awareness Day, held at Saddleback College on April 14, has sparked strong emotions throughout the campus through their sponsored activities. The T-shirts created by abused students, and the day of silence in honor of homosexual rights, both drew attention to problems often neglected by the public.

The topics on the shirts are absolutely heart-breaking, but were also eye opening, as I realized how much abuse takes place in our area. While reading these T-shirts on the clothesline, tears welled up in my eyes. At the same time I felt angry and sick to my stomach. As I woman, this affects me even more; I could not ever imagine the violence and abuse fellow women have experienced.

The shirts’ messages ranged from sexually abused children, teens addicted to drugs, and gay children who are not accepted by their families. Other issues, like attempted suicides, unprotected sex leading to teen pregnancy and prostitution for drugs, were written all over these shirts.

Contrary to popular belief, these traumatic events are not exclusive to women and children. Males who are victims of sexual abuse often do not report the incident, and may feel guilty. Reading the shirts about male abuse helped me understand the thoughts and feelings of men who have been mistreated.

The number of women, teens, children, and others who were raped, sexually abused, or physically abused here at Saddleback was astonishing. According to Amnesty International, in the United States, a woman is raped every 6 minutes; a woman is battered every 15 seconds.

These horrifying problems deserve much more attention. This event was therefore completely necessary. We need to get the word out and help people feel comfortable enough to share these dark secrets. In addition, being able to write down the pain helps others realize it is okay to confront someone about their problems. Being able to put down in words what happened can be a sad experience for both the reader and the writer.

Raising awareness for gay, lesbian, and the transgender is also critical. One T-shirt illustrated that his dad would “rather have a dead son than a gay one.”

To celebrate the Day of Silence here on campus, students covered their mouth with bandanas to show the action we must take to alert the public on the subject of homosexual rights.
These events are also a chance for new beginnings. I was inspired to be a part of more organizations for awareness.

The gay community faces bullying and harassment on a day-to-day basis. As an activist in the gay community myself, I feel the desperate need to create more rights for gays, and to stop these close-minded opinions. The vow of silence gathered together a wide range of people from different backgrounds, all in hopes of bringing more attention to what the average gay student goes through, and to support positive change for gay individuals.

I feel gay rights and acceptance is a constant battle our country is facing, and if the younger generation can be more open minded to change, we can start to develop more rights for the gay community.

Raising awareness for such intense issues helped me realize what our school is capable of. I encourage all to read these T-shirts and help out with awareness organizations, to give hope to those in need and to help the process of transition.

 

Day of Silence is a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Concerned students pledge silence to bring attention to society’s bullying by those who live an alternative lifestyle. (Shannon Patrick)

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