BYU and UVU students gathered Jan. 19 for the first Women’s Wave Rally in Provo.
Utah Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, attended the event and spoke about the importance of holding a rally outside of Salt Lake City and how individuals can make waves in their local governments.
“Although they’re doing a march at the Capitol, I specifically wanted to be here because I want to make sure that everybody’s voice is represented,” Romero said.
First elected in 2012, Romero worked on a bill presented during the 2014 Legislature session called Child Sexual Abuse Prevention. The bill was signed into law on April 4, 2014.
Romero told the crowd it is up to them to hold her and other elected officials accountable. Romero said her main goal as a representative is to advocate for women and sexual assault survivors.
According to Romero, Utah is 10 steps ahead when it comes to sexual assault bills and preventative education programs compared to other states. However, she added, Utah has a long way to go when it comes to equality and women’s issues.
BYU law student Cassidy Jensen Combs spoke to the crowd on the long term effects of surviving sexual assault. “After I had survived the physical aspect of my assault, I thought that I had survived the worst part,” Combs said. “I had no idea that the worst part was only beginning.”
Combs spoke about the emotional trauma that followed her after the assault. “I felt empty,” Combs said, adding that the assault made her feel unworthy of love and that all she wanted was to wake up and feel like herself again.
Combs described the feeling as being surrounded by darkness. She said her now-husband Tanner Combs reminded her that although there may be darkness now, there is always light somewhere.
“There are survivors who stand with us today who have walked through the darkness and who have come out and given light to other people who are still in the dark,” she said.
No longer ashamed of her assault, Combs said everyone struggles, but nobody struggles alone. She encouraged the crowd to be each others’ light.
The final speaker was Sariah Collard, a trauma-informed crisis therapist who said it is one of her greatest privileges to work with sexual assault survivors. She said it is important for communities to come together and support survivors.
“You can get involved in these community organizations. Volunteering for these organizations is a great way to raise your voice and say, ‘Not in my community,'” Collard said.
Collard encouraged the crowd to get involved with local organizations and help others who have been impacted by sexual assault.
The community can help each other with these resources and let victims know they aren’t alone, she said.