'It's OK to come forward' is message of Elgin event
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Tiffany Gonzalez had not planned to speak in public about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her physician three years ago.
She did so after feeling moved, and empowered, by other women who shared their stories of victimization during "The Long Red Line" event Friday afternoon in Elgin.
"We need to be supportive of each other," said Gonzalez, of Elgin.
"Please tell your daughters, your sons, your husbands, that it's OK to come forward. It's OK to tell your story."
The event was held in conjunction with similar gatherings all over the world Friday, spurred by the One Billion Rising global campaign demanding justice and end to violence against women and girls.
First, about 110 people held red scarves and formed a line outside the Gail Borden Public Library stretching along Grove and Kimball avenues. Later, they gathered in the library's lobby.
"Red is the color of passion, of love, of blood, of anger, of struggle," said Vicki Rae Thorne of Sleepy Hollow, who kept her sexual assault a secret from all but a few people for 40 years.
"We all know have a somebody, we all know more than one somebody, who was assaulted."
Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein of Congregation Kneseth Israel read a poem she wrote about being raped.
"Thirty years later, I still have flashbacks," she said, adding she shared her story to give other women the courage to do the same.
Gonzalez said that when she contacted police three or four months after the abuse occurred, she was told there was not enough evidence to press charges against her doctor.
At first, the news was devastating, she said. But she decided to persevere by contacting the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which ultimately suspended her doctor's license, she said.
Gonzalez urged people to understand that sometimes, it takes a while for victims to gather the courage to come forward.
It's important not to re-victimize abuse victims by disbelieving or being antagonistic, Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said.
"We have to recognize we fall short, and we have to make sure we protect the victims and work with survivors," he said.
Any form of violence, from name-calling to domestic violence and sexual assault, is unacceptable, Swoboda said.
"We treat violence like a disease. One of the first things you do is stop the transmission," he said. "Violence is a learned behavior."
Community Crisis Center Executive Director Gretchen Vapnar applauded the participants.
"Some of you -- all of you -- get it," Vapnar said. "You are the people who are going to make change happen."
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