On Faith: We Step Into the Light at UCI

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“When I was 19, I was asleep in my family home and someone broke in, put a knife to my neck and raped me at knife-point,” Newport resident Karin Borchard said. “I wish I’d had the kind of support and help that We Step Into the Light offers. It would have helped me be less fearful and more comfortable. Somehow I was able to get through it, but I’ve seen so many women who have been crushed and hampered for the rest of their lives by their trauma.”

“Being involved in We Step Into the Light (WSITL) is a way for me to make sense of what happened to me, and shows me that God can use for good something that was so horrible and so hard,” Borchard continued. “When I first went to a WSITL program at UCI, I fell in love with it because it is such a positive and beautiful way to heal. I love how it celebrates the whole person and helps women move from defining themselves as a victim to somebody who can have a hopeful future. I connected with Desmonette, creator of the program, and she invited me to get involved, so I jumped in.”

We Step into the Light is a project created by Dr. Desmonette Hazly to promote healing for survivors of sexual violence through art, helping them become “thrivers.”

“I was raped when I was eight-years old and did not deal with it until I was in college,” Hazly explained. “After the experience of having someone to talk to, I felt that it was important for others to be able to talk to someone too. I went to the YWCA and the training I received led me on the journey that brought me to We Step Into the Light. It was very difficult to come up with a concept that would encompass strength, power and beauty all at once, and the thing that does this best is art.”

Karin explained that the program pairs volunteer artists with “thrivers” who share their hopes and dreams for the future. Through a collaborative process, artists choose an art form to capture the essence of the thrivers’ passions and goals. K.B. is a volunteer working hard to expand the WSITL program.

“There is so much shame and self-degradation that goes with surviving sexual violence, leaving a feeling of being tainted or damaged goods and this project reminds people of the beautiful way God sees them,” Borchard said. “The art humanizes the survivors by telling their personal stories and the art exhibits are a great piece of awareness and potential prevention. This project gives survivors hope. Life is pretty hard without hope.”

UCI will be hosting its third annual WSITL exhibit and event on campus Feb. 26, and at the Center For Living Peace on Feb. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. The public is invited on Feb. 27 to see the art exhibits, and hear Hazly speak, as well as two thriver/artist pairs. Two thrivers have decided to share their stories that evening.

“I am very grateful for tutelage from Zabie Khorakiwala, UCI violence prevention coordinator and director of the WSITL project for UCI, and Dr. Mandy Mount, director of the UCI campus assault resources and education office,” Borchard said. “They are knowledgeable, creative and caring leaders; professionals who are innovating and leading the fields of sexual assault policies and programming. Their generous sharing of knowledge and experience has allowed me to expand the reach of WSITL to other universities, as well as internationally.”

For more information, see westepintothelight.org and care.uci.edu.

Cindy can be reached at [email protected].




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