Often through the darkest nights, it is hard to see the light that resides deep within oneself. The light that reminds people that pain can and will end if they just hold on.
A victim of sexual violence, especially, may feel uncomfortable; unable to see that light and trust it the way they once did. This violence is defined as a sexual act committed against another person without that person’s given consent and can scar a person for life.
According to the website for non-profit organization focused on eliminating all forms of sexual violence, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. At such a young age, continuing life as if nothing happened, can be a difficult feat.
However, that should not be the case. By the time that person gets to college, they may not have a place to turn to but that is where H.O.P.E. comes in.
H.O.P.E., which stands for Hold On Pain Ends, is a club at Fullerton College founded by Francesca Valencia in 2012.
Valencia, a sociology and theater major, was a student in English professor, Bridget Kominek’s class when the idea came to life.
It stemmed from an assignment where students described a problem happening in the world, specifically sexual violence on college campuses, and looked for solutions on what schools can do to solve the problem.
“It’s a silent epidemic, as I like to call it, that is happening in this world. When we talk about sex, it’s very taboo,” Valencia said.
It was at that point when she realized that if there was something on campus for her to attend for sexual violence victims, she would gladly be a part of it. But instead of waiting around for it to happen, she took the initiative and created it herself.
“It’s for students who want to be community leaders and want to help specifically sexual violence victims and survivors,” Valencia said. “We become educated and become activists.”
It took a year and a half of planning to put this club together and since then it has continued to flourish. They have even been invited to speak at high schools to spread awareness about the help victims can get.
“When they’re educated at a young age, they can learn that this is what’s happening and it’s not right, and they should tell someone.”
H.O.P.E., of course, not only offers services to high school students, but really focuses on getting their own members the help they may need to get through their difficult times.
Together, the club creates a safe-zone for those who have experienced any kind of sexual violence and helps them rebuild trust in others. Here, they are able to help as friends and lend advice to others who have gone through similar situations.
In case advice from peers may not be enough, they are also able to direct students to the right resources such as student health services or counselors who can provide professional assistance.
Professor Kominek was taken by surprise. She never thought that her assignment, especially one that she was trying out for the first time, could inspire someone the way it did.
“I think every teacher hopes that they assign things where students get excited and they can see how it connects to their life outside of the class,” Kominek said. “You can never assume that’s going to happen, but I was really happy that it did.”
Kominek added that it went beyond her expectations and hopes that there will continue to be a voice on campus for students who care about these type of social justice issues.
“It’s nice to have a place on campus where there’s people who are willing to be the voice of this and bring the issue up to make people aware.”
Valencia also hopes that in the future she can move forward and make H.O.P.E. a non-profit organization for those affected by this issue.
“I think it’s very important for victims and survivors to tell other people where, how, and what happened to them so other people will become educated,” Valencia said. “You kind of have to paint a picture for them and then hopefully they’ll take the next step and say, ‘Wow, what can I do to help you?'”
Meetings are held bi-monthly and all students are welcomed whether they are a victim or someone who wants to become an activist and a voice for others affected.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.