Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Santa Maria Thursday night to bring awareness to victims of domestic violence.
Community members gathered at Santa Maria City Hall for a memorial walk, which ended at Santa Maria High School. A vigil ceremony was held after the memorial walk.
The event was organized by Domestic Violence Solutions. It was part of several memorials across the Central Coast in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The events are designed to recognize survivors of domestic violence and honor those who have been killed at the hands of their partners.
At the end of the memorial, organizers placed cut-outs of people on the stage inside Santa Maria High Ethel Pope Auditorium, to memorialize victims of intimate partner violence in Santa Maria.
A woman whose friend was murdered in a domestic violence incident in 2012 was at Thursday’s walk and memorial.
“I hope this brings awareness to our community, to victims that aren’t able to speak up. I hope this gives them the courage to speak out and let everyone know that if they are a victim, we can help them,” said Erica Mendoza.
Her best friend, Antoinette Raygoza, died when she was 20 years old. Her boyfriend, Jack Misiaszek, was sentenced in 2013 for her death. Raygoza was run over by his truck after the couple got into an argument in 2012. He was sentenced to three years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter. Raygoza’s friends say Misiaszek is now out on parole and living locally.
“If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is help out there. Don’t turn it away, just take it,” said Mendoza. “There is always help for them. There is always a door at the end of that tunnel.”
There will be another domestic violence memorial walk next week at the Paseo Nuevo Mall in Santa Barbara. It will be held on Thursday, October 25. There will be a Community Resource Fair at 4 p.m., followed by a vigil ceremony at 6 p.m. and a memorial walk at 6:30 p.m.
A similar event was held in Lompoc last week.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, there are four 24-hour crisis and information lines in Santa Barbara County. In Santa Barbara, the number is 805-964-5245. In Santa Maria, the number is 805-925-2160. In Lompoc, the number is 805-736-0965. In Santa Ynez, the number is 805-686-4390.
For more information on Domestic Violence Solutions, click here.