WomenHaven uses film series to educate young women on healthy relationships 

Ivan Soto, outreach specialist at WomenHaven, introduces the film, Audrie & Daisy, a documentary on the sexual abuse of teenagers, Wednesday evening at the WomenHaven office in El Centro.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
EL CENTRO —WomanHaven hosted the showing of the documentary film, Audrie & Daisy Wednesday, May 31 at its El Centro Main Street office to educate others and address the effects sexual violence has on the community.
Ivan Soto, outreach specialist at WomenHaven, said the 2016 Netflix documentary film is one of the series of “Film Nights and Dialogs” leading to the main event in October for domestic violence awareness month.

Audrie & Daisy examines the ripple effects in a small town when Audrie and Daisy, both high school students, were sexually assaulted by men they knew and how social media further aggravated their sufferings. After showing the 95-minute documentary, Soto engaged the mostly female audience with questions encouraging discussion of the difficult topic.

Imperial Valley College professor, Sydney Rice, said she could relate with some of the characters in the documentary film. In a small town, Rice said, it is likely for townspeople to protect the perpetrators making it difficult for women to get help.

Originally from California, Rice moved with her family to Missouri. However, she moved back to California to escape an abusive relationship. She emphasized the importance of teaching children about what is and what is not acceptable.

Rice also stressed the importance of women getting an academic education or learning trade skills. When domestic violence disrupts the family, the woman is likely to struggle financially. Education, she said, will eventually provide a job and a decent living for both the mother and her children.

Mrynna Cervantes, 22, said she uses social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and occasionally Twitter. According to Cervantes, social media may not cause sexual violence. Rather, the violence comes after the fact and is further exacerbated by backlash on social media.

“So many people can comment on all these things but really not have accountability for what they’re saying because they can just send anonymous messages,” Cervantes said.

As a result, victims don’t want to report sexual assault because of adverse reactions from anonymous and faceless people commenting on social media. If you speak out, Cervantes said, you are fearful of what others — who don’t  have any personal knowledge of the situation — may say.

 When asked about incidents of sexual abuse in Imperial Valley, Gina Vargas, executive director of the Center for Family Solutions, said “There has been an increase of sexual assault incidents reported coming from parents who requested temporary restraining orders because their child has been assaulted and bullied either by a boyfriend, by peers, or by individuals that are older than them.”

Another topic of concern, Vargas said, is dating violence between boyfriends and girlfriends. Telltale signs include jealousy, wanting her at home, asking for her cell phone to find out who is texting her or to whom she sends text messages. Often, the girl believes and/or misinterprets abusive, controlling, and a possessive relationship as love.

 Vargas said prevention is possible through awareness of signs of domestic violence when someone is in an unhealthy boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Once the girl identifies the signs, then she can remove herself from the relationship. Also, the girl should be encouraged to speak out against what they know is wrong.
“One doesn’t have to shame oneself telling your life story, but it is okay to talk about it because, through your story, you empower someone else to come forward and speak about it and receive the help that they need,” Vargas said.