Over the past three decades, a group of Lompoc-area agencies has hosted emotional vigils throughout the city to honor and remember victims and survivors of domestic violence.
For this year’s milestone 30th annual event, the organizers are reaching out to the community for help.
The Lompoc Domestic Violence Vigil planning committee is collecting painted rocks from the community for its annual awareness vigil, scheduled to take place Oct. 5 at the downtown Centennial Park. Sabrina Ross, a victim advocate at the Lompoc Police Department, said she came up with the idea after seeing painted rock movements gain traction with other causes in the community.
“I think that a lot of times victims and survivors feel very alone, so I thought this way if they saw and knew all these rocks were painted by members of the community who believe in them and care about them, that might give them some encouragement and some hope that they’re not as alone as they might feel,” Ross said.
So far, she said, the response has been "overwhelming."
After getting approval from the event’s planning committee to move forward with the idea, Ross made posts on social media asking for rocks with pictures or messages of support. People were invited to drop the rocks off in a collection box in the lobby of the Lompoc Police Department headquarters at 107 Civic Center Plaza.
Since then, Ross said she’s checked on the box weekly and taken many of the rocks to her office. As of Tuesday, she had hundreds of colorful stones piled up near her desk. She admits that “I stopped counting them at some point.”
“People just really want to participate and it’s kind of taken on a life of its own,” Ross said. “It’s great. I’m really happy with the response we got.”
Many of the rocks are purple — the color for domestic violence awareness — and have inspirational messages on them. The plan is to have attendees at the Oct. 5 vigil — many of whom are survivors or others who have been affected by domestic violence — take rocks home with them.
The vigil will begin at 6 p.m. at Centennial Park, on the corner of South H Street and East Cypress Avenue. Among the planned activities are remarks from former Lompoc Mayor Joyce Howerton, a performance from the Lompoc High School cheerleaders, Katelyn Chui will sing, members of the Lompoc High Brave Women Club will recite poetry and members of the community will read silent witness statements.
After the program, which is expected to last about 45 minutes, attendees will participate in a candlelit memorial walk for a few blocks up H Street and then back to the park for closing remarks.
The event is put on by representatives from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office Victim-Witness Assistance Program, the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, Domestic Violence Solutions and the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center.
Although so many rocks have already been donated, Ross noted that the group is still accepting more in the collection box at the police station.
“There’s no theme per se, other than hope and encouragement,” she said.
Blank rocks will also be provided at the vigil, along with paint markers, so that attendees can decorate rocks on-site.
Alison Wales, associate director of the Rape Crisis Center, said she appreciates the inclusion of the rock aspect this year.
“It’s just another opportunity to get the community involved in something they might not have been involved in otherwise,” Wales said.
“Hopefully, they mean something to the people (who take them home),” she added.