At the height of the holiday season, community members in Richmond and neighboring cities came together to show support for the survivor of a brutal hate crime. On December 27, over 150 people gathered for a candlelight vigil held for a woman who was gang raped by four men.
The victim, an openly gay 28-year-old woman, was assaulted on the evening of December 13. Upon leaving her car, which had a rainbow sticker on the license plate, the woman was struck with a blunt object and repeatedly raped by the four men. Throughout the 45-minute attack, the attackers made remarks about the victim’s sexual orientation. The attack ended when they forced her out of her car and drove away, leaving her naked by a burned-out apartment complex.
Last week, police arrested four suspects, two adults and two teenagers, in this case. The four men have been charged with kidnapping, gang rape, and car jacking. Hate crime enhancements have also been brought against one of the assailants.
Joshua Klipp and Vanessa Wilson co-organized the vigil with the support of Hand to Hand Kajukenbo Self Defense Center and Community United Against Violence.
“My response [when I heard about the hate crime] – and the response of my friends – was very visceral, sick to my stomach, angry, and extremely sad for the young woman,” said Joshua. ”Vanessa and I came up with the idea [of a candlelight vigil] as a way to simply, quietly, peacefully, yet visibly, respond to the horrible violence inflicted on this woman, and also on her community. The vigil was partly a place for people to come together and grieve, to gather and communicate ways to empower people’s responses, and to show support to the survivor and that entire neighborhood.
“The vigil was 30 minutes long, starting at 9:30pm on Saturday night – exactly 2 weeks to the time and in the place where the crime began. In those 30 minutes, a number of people addressed the gathering, including the survivor’s partner and the Mayor of Richmond.”
Among those in attendance at the vigil were members of Not In Our Town Contra Costa County. Marilyn Langlois from NIOT Contra Costa related her experience at the vigil.
“I, like so many others was horrified when I first heard about this crime. Normally I’m a homebody and don’t go out anywhere late in the evening. However, this event drew me to it as important way to show solidarity for the survivor and the community.
“My 27-year old daughter and another friend got our candles and drove there together, wondering who else would be there. It was such a heart-warming and gratifying feeling to see so many people gathered together late on a Saturday night in what some see as not the safest neighborhood. The whole scene was mutually supportive and respectful, and I felt really connected to the others there.
“This issue of sexual assault and homophobia needs to be continually addressed at many venues in our community, and I’m sure it will be.”
To help the survivor and her family, Community Violence Solutions, a rape crisis center serving Contra Costa and Marin counties, has opened up a fund for donations to help cover relocation costs. Donations should be marked “Attn: Richmond Jane Doe.” Numerous fundraisers are being planned as well. On January 9, Velvet, a club in Oakland, will be hosting a fundraiser for the Community Violence Solutions fund.
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