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North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center hosting a candlelight vigil in Lompoc to honor Child Abuse Prevention Month

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center is hosting a candlelight vigil in Lompoc to honor Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The annual honor in April was designated Nationally in 1983 to raise awareness and prevent child abuse.

Former President Barack Obama issued a Presidential proclamation in 2016 stating, "During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we recommit to giving every child a chance to succeed and to ensuring that every child grows up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment that is free from abuse and neglect."

The North County Rape Crisis & Child Protection Center is the primary crisis support agency for victims of human trafficking as well as sexual and domestic child abuse. They help over 600 people annually across Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Guadalupe. The organization offers presentations, education, training, and online resources.

Executive Director Ann McCarty says only one in ten people come forward after being sexually assaulted… and says she hopes the vigil invites more people to speak up. 

“People think that they don't even know a survivor of sexual violence. But the truth is, we all know one.. This is a local health crisis.. We've got to have these discussions in order to make a change in the communities that we serve," said McCarty.

Children's Resource and referral of Santa Barbara County serves foster care youth, parents and caregivers. CEO Michelle Graham was motivated to live a life of child advocacy after suffering sexual assault as a teen.

"Right here in this community at the age of 16, I was a victim of a violent sexual assault. The impact of that rape, well, it didn't define me, but the preceding pregnancy and most definitely did... Child Abuse Prevention Month is so important to our community because awareness is what is the beginning of acceptance. Acceptance that child abuse does happen in all socioeconomic status levels. I know this because it happened to me," said Graham.

Graham had to give her daughter up for adoption and to heal she chose to dedicate her life to help other victims and survivors. She worked as a Lead investigator for Child Protective Services for many years before leading her Non-profit.

She has since written many books, received her masters degree and is college professor and keynote speaker. Although Graham says, the greatest part of her journey has been the reunion with her Birth daughter.

"I always knew that one day I would write a book about my story, but what I didn't expect and brought me so much joy is that my birth daughter Sarah also wanted to be a part of it. And so the back of the book is so special because she writes her version of her experience and her adoption story," said Graham.

Graham hopes her new book Undefined: More Than the Sum of my Losses helps victims of child abuse find their healing power.

McCarty says she will work until the statistics change in Santa Barbara County and will continue to advocate for victims and survivores.

“Many times survivors of sexual violence feel like they’re the only ones and they feel alone. And we want to make sure that our community knows that no one is alone and that’s why we do the work here in the community," said McCarty

McCarty says she hopes the vigil inspires more people to find a place where they can seek refuge and resources.

“That's what we want to celebrate. Tomorrow night is the resiliency of the survivors that we have supported in our community," said McCarty

The Vigil will be held on Thursday April 18 at 6 p.m. the owner of South Side Coffee Company in Lompoc will be opening up just for the vigil.

The Center will also be holding a screening in Santa Maria that will be open to the public to learn more about child abuse and neglect prevention in the county on Saturday.

Graham's book can be found as an audible and in bookstores near you. To check it out visit her website.

Stay tuned on Your News Channel tonight for more on this story.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
Child Abuse Prevention Month
crime and courts
crime prevention efforts
North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center
santa barbara county

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Christina Rodriguez


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