Local News

Apr 14, 2010 9:39 PM by Ariel Wesler

Sexual assault survivors rely on local crisis center

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and local survivors are speaking out about the importance of the local crisis center.

The North County Rape Crisis Center has been serving Santa Barbara County for more than 84 years. It provides free support and educational services to sexual assault survivors. This year, the non profit organization anticipates less government funding and is asking the community for help.

For survivors of sexual assault, the images are unforgettable.

"You have pushed down memories of terrible things that happened to you since you were very very young, and when some of these memories come back, it's like an avalanche," said one woman.

We spoke with two survivors, who asked us to hide their identities. They courageously shared their experiences, something both say would never have been possible if it weren't for the North County Rape Crisis Center and its knowledgeable counselors.

"She has away of just reassuring you that it wasn't your fault. . .She handed me the teddy bear and I just held on to it and after that, I knew what the teddy bear was there for," said another survivor.

The non profit that helps the community now needs the community's help. It's in danger of losing 10 to 20 percent of its government funding.

Between its offices in Lompoc and here in Santa Maria, the center helps more than 15,000 people, offering support, prevention, and education.

"The more people we reach, the more aware they're going to be, the less likely it is that they'll be victimized," said Executive Director Shannon Rose Chavez.

Years later, survivors are still getting their lives together.

"I'm healing myself and it's healing my whole family."

And encouraging others to come forward.

"I know one day they're going to be ready and they need this place."

The executive director told me the center needs about $150,000 dollars in community donations to make up for what they expect to lose in funding.

The center's volunteers contribute more than 800 hours per month.

For more information on the crisis center, click here.

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