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The Pioneer

Alumna creates program to stop rape

Courtesy | Janis Hillard

Tiffany Jones,
Campus & Managing Editor

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California State University, East Bay 2013 alumna Janis Hillard has created Edipus, a small movement in the hopes to make a big change by bringing both men and women together for solidarity in sexual assault and rape.

Hillard, along with a team of less than 20 friends, colleagues, and survivors hope to put on a concert in summer 2015 in the Bay Area to raise awareness of rape and assault.
Hillard, a survivor of rape, says she strives to let others, like her, know that they are not alone.

“I know other survivors who are still struggling with the shame and guilt of it and I want them to know that they don’t have to stay there,” she said, sometimes people need more help realizing that they too, can stop blaming themselves, as she learned herself.

Hillard, born and raised in San Jose was molested as a young girl by a relative, and was subsequently raped at the age of 16.

“I suppressed the rape so much that I really didn’t believe that it had happened,” said Hillard. “It almost felt like it didn’t happen to me but to someone else.”
After being raped, Hillard said she became a miserable person, and felt like there was a black cloud hanging over her head.

Some time after graduating high school, Hillard became a makeup artist apprentice for a community theater. Eventually, Hillard worked for Opera San Jose, San Jose Repertory Theatre, American Musical Theatre of San Jose and others.

In 2005, Hillard began to have vivid flashbacks of the rape. After she had a breakdown on her way to work, she said she started to work on herself. She enrolled at San Jose City College in 2007, and received her first A in a psychology class.

“I was hooked. I decided that this was where I belonged and had to make the tough decision to ween myself away from makeup artistry,” she said.
In 2011, Hillard transferred to CSUEB.

“It’s a great school with great people and it treated me very well,” she said.

Hillard’s life and experiences led her to the beginning of Edipus.

“Edipus was technically born in my apartment almost ten years ago,” said Hillard. “I don’t know where I was at, but I just remember thinking it would be great to have men stand up for sexual assault.”

At first, she wanted to call it ‘Hero Festival,’ but later created the name Edipus. Edipus relates back to the story of Oedipus in Greek mythology.

“Oedipus, to me, was a brave man. He was bequeathed a task that he was innocent of and given a burden he didn’t deserve,” she said. “My Edipus echoes that sentiment.”

Both Oedipus and Edipus are heroes, she said, because they don’t ignore the pain a situation may cause until it goes away.

According to Hillard, the majority of the male population doesn’t believe in rape of any kind. She says the men she knows, are appalled that rape still happens.
“The problem is that they run away from speaking up and saying so,” she said.

“There is never a justification for rape. The people who it’s happen to aren’t bad people or are people who have somehow asked for it,” said Hillard. “There are the innocent, just like cancer or the AIDS patient. So why shouldn’t we care?”

Hillard hopes that people will understand Edipus for what it really is. “We just want to help those who aren’t able to help themselves and we’re doing by putting on a concert,” said Hillard. “It’s a simple and small concept that we hope will have a big impact.”

Hillard said they are trying to make a change by asking men to stand with assault survivors through music.

Although there are no finalized plans for the concert, they do have a ‘music wish list’ including, Bassnectar, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Peter Gabriel, and many more.

“Our dream is to put on a concert that tips the anti-oppression/anti-sexism/anti-exploitation revolution over the edge and finish a war that has claimed far too many lives,” according to the Edipus website.

Hillard said statistics about rape, will simply turn people away, but she says, having all male performers will show solidarity with many survivors.

“The simple fact is the human race doesn’t like to see its people hurt. This is proven when natural disasters happen or there is a mass shooting at a school. Our heart bleeds for the innocent,“ she said. “The cancer survivor or the AIDS patient; we feel. Rape is no different.”

Hillard said simply, “tell people about it,” saying that a simple idea like Edipus simply needs exposure.

“Rape isn’t going away if we turn a blind shoulder because it makes us feel icky. We’ve got to face it — together, ” said Hillard.

For more information, see edipus.org.

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Alumna creates program to stop rape