The North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center recently celebrated the graduation of eight new advocates.

The new crop of advocates was recognized during a ceremony Monday at the First Baptist Church in Santa Maria. The graduates — a group that includes volunteers and two staff members — spent 10 weeks learning about sexual assault, child abuse, suicide awareness, active listening, law enforcement investigations, cultural conditioning and more.

They spent 49 hours total in training, which also included preparing for assisting the agency in the coverage of its 24-hour hotline, helping to educate the community during outreach events, and assisting with fundraising.

“You, too, will make sacrifices for your community, so thank you for what you, too, will be giving to the organization,” Ann McCarty, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, told the graduates.

The ceremony also included comments from Joyce Howerton, who started the agency in 1974 to help women through the trauma of sexual assault and domestic violence. Howerton, a former Lompoc mayor, thanked the advocates for their time and energy.

About 30 volunteers, as well as family members and friends of the graduates, were in attendance. After a meal, the graduates were presented with certificates from Mandy Ebert, the center’s hotline services coordinator.

“Without you, we couldn't do what we do,” McCarty told the graduates. “Thank you for making a difference in your community.”

This report was prepared by Willis Jacobson. He can be reached at