After a year in which the “MeToo” and “TimesUp” movements have helped shine a national spotlight on issues of sexual assault and abuse, a local victim support agency is set to host a Lompoc rally this weekend in an effort to narrow that focus on the abuses occurring in Central Coast communities.
The North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center will host its third annual “1 Billion Rising” event from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the courtyard outside of Lompoc City Hall, 100 Civic Center Plaza.
The multifaceted ceremony will include singing, dancing, drumming, art tables, presentations from community members and information booths and other resources from more than a dozen area organizations — all with the goal of spreading a message to speak out and help end domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Alison Wales, the associate director of the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center, said she feels like this year’s event is especially timely considering the massive scope of the abuse stories that have dominated much of the national news over the past several months. Calls to the North County Rape Crisis Center, she said, are up 25 percent, a spike she attributes to the increased attention being given to sexual crimes.
“While this is our third year, we cannot help but feel the excitement and enthusiasm due to the national conversation,” Wales said. “The (Rape Crisis) Center has always maintained that speaking up or breaking the silence about assault and abuse will help to eradicate this violence. Silence breeds this violence.
“We have tirelessly worked to educate and empower all victims about their choices,” she added. “The recent MeToo movement and other national conversations have put a megaphone on sexual harassment, assault, and abuse, and we are grateful for the opportunity to spotlight the services that the center provides in North County to those survivors and their significant others.”
As in years past, the event will include comments from local leaders, a drum circle, musical performances and other presentations by local high school students, including members of the Cabrillo High cheerleading team and the Lompoc High SAVE (Students Against Violent Experiences) Club.
New this year will be a table hosted by the organizers of Lompoc Rocks, at which attendees can paint rocks that will be given to abuse victims, and the culmination of a poster contest in which local teens were encouraged to create artwork commemorating February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
The poster contest, which was coordinated by Sabrina Ross, a victim advocate with the Lompoc Police Department, drew entries from students at Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools, as well as at the Boys and Girls Club. A winner will be selected during Saturday’s event.
Wales said she felt it was particularly important to include teens and young adults in the conversation.
“Our youth are living complex lives and relationships,” she said. “They need help navigating what is healthy and safe. The messages that they receive in the media, or possibly at home, are not always the best. … Their awareness and willingness to participate in events such as ‘1 Billion Rising’ and a poster contest means we will have a healthier and safer community in the future.”
While some of the national discussion of the sexual abuse scandals involving public figures has focused on politics, Wales stressed that Saturday’s rally is nonpartisan.
“This is not a political rally; it never has been and it’s not our goal to ever have it become one,” she said. “This is always about awareness.”
Among the organizations participating in the event are Legal Aid, Coast Valley Treatment Center, the Girl Scouts, Planned Parenthood, Helping Hands and Transitions Mental Health, the Lompoc Police Department, House of Pride and Equality, Domestic Violence Solutions, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, the local chapter of the American Association of University Women and Wild West Pizza.
The “1 Billion Rising” campaign, according to www.onebillionrising.org, was launched on Valentine’s Day 2012 in response to a statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime, a total that adds up to more than 1 billion people. Since its inception, the campaign has grown to become “the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history,” according to the website.
Wales said this year’s Lompoc event will be expanded to also include information about violence against boys and men. She said she was also thrilled to have participation from House of Pride and Equality, or HOPE, which advocates for the LGBTQ communities in Santa Maria and Lompoc.
“It affects all forms of society, across the whole spectrum,” Wales said of sexual violence. “Our focus will always be about sexual abuse and assault across the community and (spreading awareness) that it happens in our community and celebrating the courage that it takes to speak up and not be ashamed of it.
“I’m glad the rest of the country has caught up to what we’ve believed for 40 years,” she added.