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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Women Escaping A Violent Environment: City College discusses sexual assault and domestic violence

In Rhoda Hall North 116 on Mondays 9-5 Emily Zavala-Aguilar, confidential advocate, helps students who have experienced or are experiencing sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, domestic assault, or sex trafficking and can connect them to resources needed in Rhoda Hall North. Photo by Sara Nevis | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Shannon Westberg | Staff Writer | [email protected]

Women Escaping A Violent Environment (WEAVE) Confidential Advocate Emily Zavala-Aguilar shared two statistics during a March 11 presentation and conversation about sexual assault and domestic violence at City College.

“One in four women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted before they graduate college,” said Zavala-Aguilar. “And each day, three women and one man are murdered by their partner.”   


Speaking to a room of roughly 35 people, Zavala-Aguilar reminded the audience to take care of themselves during what is sometimes a difficult and triggering conversation and encouraged attendees to step outside or take a break if needed.

According to the Los Rios Sexual Violence and Title IX policy, the WEAVE confidential advocate is available for those who do not wish to report a crime, but want confidential help.

“All faculty and staff are mandated reporters,” Zavala-Aguilar said. “They are legally obligated to report sexual assault and domestic violence incidents.”

She added that students who are uncertain if they want to report incidents do not have the option to confide in a trusted teacher or adviser for this reason. Because the WEAVE confidential advocate is not an employee of Los Rios, reports made to the advocate are not official reports to the college, according to Los Rios. Only if asked to do so by the reporting party will the advocate report the matter to the district or the Title IX officer.

As confidential advocate for all Los Rios Colleges, Zavala-Aguilar said her job is to support students across Los Rios campuses. She spends eight hours at each of the Los Rios colleges every week. She helps students navigate issues such as whether or not to report an incident, how to do so if they choose, and where to seek medical attention, an evidentiary exam, counseling and more.

During her presentation, Zavala-Aguilar shared extensive information about what signs to look for when trying to identify abuse in a relationship. Things like financial abuse, physical abuse, and technological abuse, driving home that all forms of abuse are patterns of behavior aimed at gaining power and control over someone else, she said.  

Adjunct professor Alexandra Boyd, who brought her public speaking class to the WEAVE presentation said, “It’s a little personal and a little bit educational,” wiping a small tear from beneath her right eye.   

“When I was in college, I experienced assault myself, so it’s a topic that I’m really passionate about educating my students on,” Boyd said. “If I can help it, they don’t have to experience what I experienced. If I knew this, in the moment I experienced my assault, I would have been more empowered in my response.”  

Boyd said she hopes that by seeing a real life example of public speaking—especially on important and difficult topics, such as sexual assault and domestic violence—students will be able to critically apply what they are learning and practicing in the classroom.   

Boyd said that the biggest thing is to realize that sexual assault and violence can happen to anybody.  

“It’s so important to not be distanced from the topic just because it hasn’t happened to you,” said Boyd. “You never know—it could be someone next to you it has happened to, or anyone. Just don’t take that truth for granted.”
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Established in 1978, WEAVE has been working to build a community that does not tolerate sexual assault, domestic violence, and sex trafficking, while providing support to survivors.

WEAVE is the only rape crisis center in Sacramento County.  Zavala-Aguilar said that the acronym is misleading because, unlike some other organizations, WEAVE serves “all people, all the time,” not just women.    

“Sexual assault on college campuses is a huge issue,” Zavala-Aguilar said.

According to Zavala-Aguilar, an estimated 80-90 percent of sexual assault and domestic violence cases go unreported.   

She added that there is a great deal of doubt when it comes to sexual assault cases, making wanting to report the incident increasingly difficult for victims.

“When it comes to sexual assault, there is always a huge amount of people accusing the survivor of just making it up or wanting attention or doing it for some other reason, but it actually happened,” she said.   

Statistics indicate that only 2-8 percent of reported sexual assault claims are false, according to Zavala-Aguilar—the same rate of false accusation for all other crimes.   

“We should just believe survivors,” said Zavala-Aguilar.

Not believing sexual assault victims is unwarranted, according to Zavala-Aguilar.

“Victim blaming is very common in our culture and perpetuates rape culture,”  she said.

According to the Oxford dictionary, rape culture is a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.

“Consent culture is what we strive for,” Zavala-Aguilar said. “Consent is willing, enthusiastic, mutual and ongoing. Consent must be granted every single time. Everyone can change their mind at any time, even in the middle of it. Consent to one act does not mean consent to another act.”  

WEAVE counselor Emily Zavala-Aguilar is at City College Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be found in Rodda Hall North, Room 116.  She can be reached at (916)568-3011 and [email protected].


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