Mayor Alice Patino, along with members of the Santa Maria City Council, has dedicated the month of April to those most vulnerable.
During their regular meeting, council members read three proclamations inviting the public “to come together and raise a public voice” for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month and Fair Housing Month.
Now, April 2016 in Santa Maria has been dedicated to all three causes to raise awareness and help bolster efforts to help those who need it most.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Councilwoman Terri Zuniga presented the proclamation declaring April 2016 Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“I am so blessed to be making this proclamation,” Zuniga said. "I work with the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center every day, addressing issues of sexual assault in our community."
The councilwoman is also the supervisor for the District Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Program. Before that, she had a long career working to help protect others.
“Sexual assault is an intolerable and violent crime affecting victims and survivors, their family members, significant others, neighbors, co-workers and others,” she said in delivering the proclamation. “No one person or agency can end sexual assault on their own.”
The measure recognized the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center for its work in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County.
Teresa Loya of the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center was on hand to accept the proclamation.
“I just want to say 'thank you' on behalf of the Rape Crisis Center,” she said. “Sexual assault is not just a women’s issue; it’s not just a men’s issue; it is a societal issue. It affects everyone.
"Sexual assault doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity," she continued. "Anybody can be a victim of sexual assault; therefore, collectively as a society working together, we can create the biggest impact. There are so many people out there that need help.”
For more information about the center, visit www.sbcountyrapecrisis.org.
“We work really hard,” Loya said. "All the staff at our center have this fire inside of us, this passion, if you will, and we try to reach as many people as we can.
"Every single person who has been in this situation needs to hear that it was not their fault and that they are not alone."
Child Abuse Prevention Month
Councilwoman Etta Waterfield presented the proclamation declaring April 2016 Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“Child abuse is a critical social problem that can have damaging effects not only on the children involved but on communities that must address the aftermath of abuse,” she said in delivering the proclamation.
The decree recognized Child Abuse Listening Mediation, or CALM, for its work in the area.
“CALM continues to be the only nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara County whose mission is to prevent, assess and treat child abuse by providing comprehensive, culturally competent services for children families and adults,” Waterfield said.
Dr. Scott Whiteley, director of prevention and treatment for CALM, was on hand to accept the proclamation Tuesday night.
“Thank you, really, for this proclamation to help raise awareness of child abuse and recognizing CALM’s efforts,” he said. “I want to thank the Santa Maria community as well as individuals for really supporting our efforts.”
The city specifically mentioned CALM’s "I Will Not Be Silent" campaign, which is an ongoing effort to encourage people to prevent and report child abuse.
“That, ultimately, is going to help us turn the tide against child abuse,” Whitely said.
Fair Housing Month
Councilman Jack Boysen presented the proclamation declaring April 2016 Fair Housing Month in the city of Santa Maria.
Fair housing laws guarantee the right to equal housing opportunities for all residents of the United States.
“The city of Santa Maria maintains citywide displays of housing information materials printed in both English and Spanish languages concerning fair housing legislation and describing the procedure for lodging housing discrimination complaints,” Boysen said.
The proclamation pointed out Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County for its work to help the fair housing effort.
“The city of Santa Maria has contracted with the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County to perform random testing of fair housing practices of landlords and property managers,” Boysen said.
The city presented the proclamation to a representative of the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County.