Breaking the Silence by Breaking the Barriers

Working to assure Spanish-laguage sexual assault victims have a voice

By Gabriela Raguay
Published on LatinoLA: April 6, 2008

Breaking the Silence by Breaking the Barriers

Helping victims of sexual assault find their voice is the primary goal of Program Specialist Olivia Alvarez. Starting as a sexual assault advocate volunteer at the YWCA Greater Los Angeles (YWCA/GLA) Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Alvarez soon realized how important her role was in turning victims of sexual assault into survivors.

"I love what I do and I know that the services I provide benefit many people in need," said Alvarez. "I may not be able to change the world, but I can make a difference in someone's life and that is what matters to me."

As a program specialist she maintains the Center's Empowerment Room, which serves as a resource to the community by providing educational materials regarding sexual assault and access to a computer for further research on the subject. Alvarez also acts as a liaison between the Center and the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Compton. Alvarez attends meetings and provides updates on the Center's initiatives and activities. She also conducts presentations for the community and various businesses to provide them with information on the Center's services.

"It is important to let the community know that the YWCA/GLA Sexual Assault Crisis Services is here to serve as a resource, to provide guidance and that this is a safe place to reach out to for assistance," said Alvarez.

Additionally, as a sexual assault advocate, Alvarez assists victims through the 24-hour hotline. She is one of several bilingual advocates able to answer calls from Spanish-language callers. Whether she is answering a call at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., Alvarez is prepared to listen to someone who wants to talk or go to a hospital to support a victim.

"Our staff members and volunteers are here to make sure that language does not become a barrier for obtaining help," said Alvarez. "We have a passion for helping others and have a desire to empower our community because we believe in the Center's motto to 'honor survivors who have broken their silence and support victims who have yet to find their voice'."

Olivia holds a bachelor's degree in Human Services from California State University, Dominguez Hills. A woman of many talents, Alvarez is also a self-defense instructor and has court accompaniment training. She is able to provide self-defense classes to the community and when necessary, can accompany a sexual assault survivor to court appointments.

Spanish-language victims can call the 24-hour sexual assault hotline at 310-764-1403 and they will be directed to an advocate such as Alvarez for assistance. They can find the help and support they need whether it is someone to assist them during their hospital visit or if they just need someone to speak with who understands them.

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