SPOTLIGHT: Monterey County Rape Crisis Center
Two clubs at Monterey County Rape Crisis Center strive to break the cycle of sexual violence.
By Marielle Argueza
Every 108 seconds: That’s how frequently women experience sexual violence. It’s a statistic that resonates with Everett Alvarez High School junior Jessica Godinez. But Godinez says it’s not just that number that stuck with her. It was also seeing dozens of flags – which represent those unnamed women – go up in the school’s amphitheater that shocked her.
The flags were part of an event the My Life Club put on called Flag Day. “Looking at all those flags go up throughout the day made it real,” Godinez says. Now she’s a senior, and along with several of her friends, are members of the My life Club. Her friends echo the same impression of Flag Day.
But it’s not just big events that keep these teenage girls in the My Life Club, which is run by the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center. It’s subtler things too: lessons in consent and in self-confidence, learning how to be critical of the media’s idealized portrayals of women, recognizing abusive behavior and tips on how to maintain healthy relationships.
The Monterey County Rape Crisis Center has also extended the opportunity to high school-aged boys, with the My Strength Club. And just as members of My Life are taught that they are more than stereotypes and victims, My Strength members are taught to be cautious of toxic displays of masculinity, along with many of the same lessons in consent and self-confidence as My Life members. (Nonbinary and transgender students can pick either club to join.)
As part of the Monterey County Gives! campaign, the Rape Crisis Center is raising money for its Big Idea: to bolster the efforts of these clubs at six schools in Monterey County. While the center is perhaps best known for supporting victims of sexual violence, they are ramping up prevention and outreach efforts.
Nicole Irigoyen, the My Life prevention educator at Everett Alvarez, says the lessons add up to safer communities. Starting young, Irigoyen says, is necessary to stop the cycle of violence.
“High-schoolers are just learning to come into themselves,” she says, noting this is also the age when critical thinking is integrated into academic curriculums. “If we get them to think critically about their relationships now and build their confidence now, it will help them make better decisions in the future.”
“As girls, we’re only taught to be careful,” Godinez says. “These clubs are beneficial because they teach girls and boys how to be responsible for themselves and respect each other.”