Gilroy – Teen boys hooted in the Gilroy High School auditorium as Rosa Revuelta held up a placard of a toned, curvaceous young woman, her shirt dipping over her breasts.
"This is what we typically hear a rape victim looks like," said Revuelta. "And some of them do. But typically, we get victims like this walking through our door."
Gasps erupted from the teens as Revuelta pulled out a placard of an elderly woman in a wheelchair, then recounted the rape of an 86-year-old woman at Wheeler Manor years ago – a woman who couldn't describe her attacker to police. She was blind.
At Gilroy High School, students spent Monday and Tuesday learning safety tips and unlearning myths about sexual assault – an especially hot topic after a series of rapes were reported this spring in Gilroy, including one directly behind the school and one Saturday on Wren Avenue. In two 35-minute assemblies, one for girls, held Monday, and one for boys, held Tuesday, advocates from Community Solutions shared the hard statistics on sexual assault and the definition of consent.
Next, Revuelta pulled out a placard of a tiny girl, holding her mother's hand.
"This is the second type of victim that walks through our doors," she said.
The room fell silent.
"The youngest victim we've worked with was 6 months old," Revuelta explained. "Sadly, we didn't work with her – we worked with her mother, because she didn't survive her rape."
Using concrete examples from their own experience as advocates, Revuelta and Perla Flores, director of the Solutions to Violence component at Community Solutions, discussed what sexual assault survivors face, even after the assault: reliving the attack as they describe it to police, nurses and sketch artists, hours spent undergoing invasive physical exams, and sometimes, public shaming by others who find out.
"It's one of the few crimes where the victim is found to be guilty," said Flores. She contrasted the way rape victims are scrutinized to the treatment given those who are robbed, talking about how one of her cousins, a DJ, lost his entire CD collection when he left his car unlocked for a few minutes outside his Southern California home. "He made some bad choices, but it's not his fault, right? Those CDs still belong to him."
In the same way, she said, everyone's bodies belong to them – no matter what they're wearing, where they're walking, or whether they said 'yes' earlier, she added: No is still no.
Before the boys filed out of the auditorium, Flores and Revuelta held up one more series of posters: Images of boys from the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault's 'My Strength is Not for Hurting' campaign, printed with slogans such as, "So when she was too drunk to decide, I decided we shouldn't" and "When she said stop, I said OK."
"I want to put this out to you as young men," said Flores. "It's a communal responsibility to protect each other."