“It is incredibly difficult to go through this alone,” says Ann McCarty, executive director of the North County Rape Crisis Center. “Victims need someone to process their feelings with them.”
Ann should know. She has been working with the Center since 1994, and has been its executive director since 2015. During that time she has learned that one of the most valuable services the Center can provide to a person who has been the victim of sexual violence is emotional support.
When someone calls the Center’s 24-hour-a-day hotline, the advocate who answers informs her/him (yes, men are victims too) what options are available. They can report what happened to the police; they can have a medical exam; they can file a restricted report that does not go to the police; they can file an anonymous report that goes law enforcement without their name on it; or, they can make no report at all.
“Whatever the caller decides to do, we support them,” says Ann.
The statistics on sexual violence are disturbing. Every 73 seconds a person in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Every day 70 women commit suicide due to the aftermath of a sexual assault. One in six American women will be the victim of rape in her lifetime, as will one in 10 men.
Statistics are merely numbers. They don’t tell the human cost and cannot measure the pain sexual violence brings, trauma that may haunt the victims for the rest of their lives.
The trauma inflicted on the victims also touches the people who work at the Center. “We are all deeply impacted by the people we help,” says Ann, and the people who work at the Center make it a point to support one another. “We don’t want to take it home with us,” she says. This is not always easy, and Ann reports that some of her staff have experienced nightmares. But she finds a positive note: “It makes us into being better advocates.”
Besides rape and assault, the Center also deals with child sex trafficking, a crime much more common on the Central Coast than most people realize. Once again the statistics are jolting: Eight children per day are trafficked in Santa Barbara County alone. Another surprise: The traffickers are locals, and so are the victims. The problem is not far away, it is right here, and it is a lucrative practice.
“You can only buy and sell a drug once,” Ann points out. “You can buy and sell a child over and over.”
In spite of the sobering statistics, the trauma, and the suffering, Ann remains optimistic. The number of assaults is going down. The Center has stayed open, offering all services in spite of the pandemic. More victims are coming forward after being assaulted, especially men. Through educational programs the Center is reaching children starting with kindergarteners, educating them on what the tactics of the traffickers are. (Nowadays they are using videos, due to COVID-19). The Center is part of a county-wide task force dedicated to stopping human trafficking. “I’m very proud of all we have done,” Ann says.
Ann was Lompoc’s Woman of the Year in 2015. Despite all the responsibilities she has as executive director of the Center, she continues to work hands on with the people that come to the Center seeking help and providing emotional support for the staff that work there.
“We always need volunteers,” says Ann. “People who have good communication skills, empathy, and the ability to think on their feet.” If interested, you can call 805-736-8535, or go to https://sbcountyrapecrisis.org/volunteer/.
Mark James Miller is an Associate English Instructor at Allan Hancock College and President of the Part-Time Faculty Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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