Tag Archives: self defense

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This April commemorates the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) through several activities. Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) is launching the virtual campaign, Create to Prevent on social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Create to Prevent invites youth to become agents of social change by expressing themselves creatively about sexual assault, specifically cyber sexual harassment. 

Cyber sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual behaviors or attention through text, social media, email, dating apps, and video chat. This includes verbal or visual actions that are sexual in nature. Cyber sexual harassment most commonly affects younger populations, especially LGBTQ+ youth, who are four times more likely to experience cyber sexual harassment. Survivors of cyber sexual harassment endure similar trauma as survivors of in-person harassment. Depression, anxiety, isolation, and suicide are some of the most common expressions of this trauma. 

To address these issues, STESA is sponsoring a contest to uplift youth voices on the topic of sexual assault in our community. Youth are encouraged to create multimedia content, such as art, poetry, skits, or infographics. STESA will choose winners in different media categories who will have the opportunity to have their submissions shared on social media. Contest prizes include a pair of Beats headphones, gift cards, and STESA swag. 

STESA is hosting a self-defense workshop in Isla Vista on Denim Day, April 28th. Participants are encouraged to wear denim to make a statement against victim blaming. Registration for this event is open to all community members ages 13+, and interested parties should email bianca@sbstesa.org to register. 

STESA’s Community Education Coordinator, Bianca Orozco, emphasizes, “Even in the midst of the pandemic, sexual assault continues to happen. We’re trying to equip people with the tools to recognize and combat sexual assault from home.”

Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) provides confidential counseling and support services to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. Through education and awareness, STESA is committed to change the cultural norms that enable sexual assault to exist. Our service area extends from Carpinteria to the Santa Ynez Valley.

Visit sbstesa.org for more information about STESA. 

A Two-Front Battle Against Sexual Assault

How do you end sexual assault across an entire community? 

The answer, according to the leaders of Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA), is rooted at both the individual and community level. The 46-year-old agency, formerly known as the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, set up the first-ever sexual assault hotline in Santa Barbara in 1974. 

Over the years, the services have grown. Now STESA intervenes with survivors within hours of an assault, counsels those who may have delayed sharing their stories and is engaged in a full-on effort against the cultural norms that have allowed sexual violence to proliferate for so long. 

Executive Director Elsa Granados has been in the movement to end sexual violence since 1985. In 1997, she assumed her role at STESA. What keeps her engaged? 

“Overall what I see is that we really transform people’s lives,” Granados says. “They come to us in a place where they are very vulnerable, feeling pain and trauma. It’s not that transformation comes overnight. But when they make the decision to leave our services, they are in a different place.” 

Amazingly, STESA’s skeleton full-time staff of four hotline responders/case managers and a clutch of dedicated volunteers comprehensively meet the needs of 550 survivors and their significant others all using an empowerment model. Once a call comes into the hotline, STESA staff or volunteers are there within 30 minutes. This could be at a school, hospital or police station. They then walk survivors through their options: medical care, legal reporting, and mental health counseling. “We always ask survivors if they want to work with us,” says STESA Program Director Idalia Gomez. “One decision about their bodies was already taken from them, so we make sure they know they are in charge of their healing.”

Beyond direct services, STESA is actively engaged in educating the community about the prevalence and precursors to sexual assault. They go into Santa Barbara schools, debunking myths about sexual assualt, hold community events – and even teach self-defense.

“We need everyone in our community to be engaged in the issue,” Executive Director Granados says. “Not everyone has to do everything, but everyone has to do something when it comes to sexual assault.”