H-LOMPOC

Apr 3, 2012 2:52 AM by Ariel Wesler

Local community speaks out against sexual violence

April is "Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention" month.
Monday night, a candlelight vigil in Lompoc aimed to focus attention on such violence in our communities.

Dozens of people showed up to the 15th annual candlelight vigil put on by the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center. Community advocates, survivors, and the Lompoc Police Chief all spoke out.

Just this past weekend, there were two attempted rapes in Santa Maria. Instances of rape and abuse are something survivors never forget, but while the physical pain often fades, they say the words are much harder to let go.

"Just bite the pillow so they don't hear you."

"Quit fighting and it won't hurt so bad."

They are actual words spoken by the abusers.

"We never forget the words our abusers say to us at the moment we're rendered powerless," said one survivor who chose to remain anonymous.

Community members walked together to the Lompoc Civic Center to raise awareness of sexual assault and abuse. Many of survivors have found comfort and courage through the North County Rape Crisis Center in town.

"They will listen to your story when nobody else wants to hear it because rape and molestation is not a pleasant issue to discuss," said Mitzi Albertson, a survivor, who now lives in Lompoc.

But support groups and counselors say it must be discussed because it happens all too often. Statistics show sexual assault affects nearly one in 5 women and in the U.S., it happens every two and half minutes.

"Just the time I was speaking, three or four people have been assaulted," said Lompoc Police Chief Tim Dabney.

Assault survivors find the situation tough to speak about, even decades later.

"I was 16 when I told my mother I needed to talk to her. I told her everything," said the anonymous survivor. "I felt different from the other kids in school. I envied their families."

When survivors are ready to talk, the center is there; a beacon of light to pierce even the darkest days.

"We must take our heads out of the sand and our voices be heard. What we hide, we do not overcome."

This issue doesn't just affect women. The rape crisis center says it's seeing more men showing up for counseling and support as well. Some are couples choose to come in together.

Organizers say when men and women speak up together, it goes a long way toward ending sexual violence.

If you or someone you know is need or support, help is available. For San Luis Obispo County, click here. For Santa Barbara County, click here.

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