Tag Archives: survivors

June is Pride Month

Each year, the month of June is dedicated to celebrating and honoring LGBTQI+ communities and individuals. Pride Month recognizes the impact that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and individuals of other gender and sexual identities have had on the world. It also honors members of the community who have been lost, especially to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. 

STESA would also like to take this opportunity to provide education on the issue of sexual assault. LGBTQI+ individuals are at increased risk of sexual assault, particularly due to harmful stereotypes and myths about LGBTQI+ experiences. Many sexual assaults perpetrated against these individuals are hate crimes, committed with the intent to punish the target for their perceived nonconformity to traditional gender and sexual norms. In a study of 273 participants identifying as gay or lesbian, 52% of the participants reported at least one incident of sexual assault/coercion. 

Perpetrators of sexual assault are often someone the survivor knows. According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. Similarly, 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. 

LGBTQI+ individuals also face unique challenges to healing from sexual assault due to barriers to access to resources, especially medical and legal resources. For example, LGBTQI+ survivors may be reluctant to disclose their assault out of fear that non-LGBTQI+ communities will reinforce the myth that LGBTQI+ relationships are dysfunctional. Additionally, the survivor may not be “out” and fear that coming forward will reveal the survivor’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, resulting in negative repercussions from non-LGBTQI+ communities.

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.

RAINN Files Amicus Brief Arguing that Defaming Rape Victims Isn’t an Official Act of the Presidency

RAINN today urged the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to consider how a ruling in President Donald Trump’s favor in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him could have a chilling effect on survivors’ willingness to report sexual assault in the future. 

Trump claims that his alleged defamation of Carroll was part of his official job as president, and he had the Justice Department intervene to take over the case. RAINN’s amicus brief argues that Trump’s actions and words couldn’t have had less to do with the job of a president, and that ruling in his favor “would give license to all federal officials to slander and defame their victims with impunity. Such a decision would have a chilling effect on survivors of sexual violence throughout the country and would exacerbate the challenges survivors already face in holding their attackers accountable.”

“At the heart of this case is whether survivors will be allowed to access justice or whether their rights to be made whole will be foreclosed upon,” said Camille Cooper, vice president of public policy at RAINN. “This case will set a legal precedent for survivors of sexual violence for decades, so it is critically important that the court understand the stakes.”

The amicus was written by RAINN’s pro bono counsel, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, led by partner Zoe Salzman and law clerk Julian Oppenheimer, working with RAINN’s legislative policy counsel, Erin Earp, and legal fellow, Jessica Gaudette Reed. 

“The standards set in this case will have long-term impacts on the rights and recourse available to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice,” said Salzman. “We are honored to join RAINN and the other organizations on this brief in a case with such far-reaching implications on this critically important issue.”

Joining RAINN on the brief are Legal Momentum; the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; the National Center for Victims of Crime; the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault; Safe Horizon; and Time’s Up.

“RAINN is especially grateful for the hard work and dedication that Zoe and the team at Emery Celli have shown in supporting victims of sexual violence,” said Cooper.

About RAINN

RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, educate the public, help organizations improve their sexual assault prevention and response programs, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence, free, confidential help is available 24/7 by calling 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visiting online.rainn.org.

Healing by Fostering Hope

In 1997, a group of breast cancer survivors and others came together to talk about having a place where women and men could come to receive practical advice and emotional support addressing the realities of a breast cancer diagnosis.  Today, with 23 years of service to the Santa Barbara community, the Breast Cancer Resource Center continues to stand at the ready with an unwavering message of hope and perseverance. 

When Georganne Lubin, a mother of four, was diagnosed with breast cancer, the road ahead – chemo, surgery, the unknown – was daunting, but the center’s home-like atmosphere, Reiki, Reflexology, and staff, many cancer survivors themselves, proved a salve. “What I found at the BCRC was a place of encouragement and hopeduring a time when my world was turned on its head by a cancer diagnosis with multiple treatments and surgeries,” Lubin says.

Amara, client with daughter

Silvana Kelly, Executive Director of the BCRC, is a survivor. Nearly two decades ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She watched her hair fall out, fought through months of treatment, recovery, and marveled at how after treatment, health improved daily and her physical strength returned.

So when a young woman with a recent diagnosis walks into the center, Kelly can, from a place of knowing, tell her that yes, you can get through this, your hair will grow back; and you will have the strength to play with your children again, and learn how to ask for help. Like Kelly, the center’s director of programs, outreach coordinator, and mammogram coordinator are all survivors.

“We are not the doctors to provide a cure, but we are the support system and family that will encourageand uplift clients, so they have the stamina to move forward while maintaining a semblance of mindful wellness,” Kelly says.

While the organization’s programs primarily focus on women because 99% of breast cancer cases affect them, Director of Donor Engagement Armando Martinez recently launched Men in Pink, a distinguished group of compassionate and philanthropic leaders dedicated to raising awareness and money to help the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbarawith their mission to support individuals facing breast cancer.

“Breast Cancer affects everyone,” Martinez says. “It also affects the lives of those standing strong, supporting a loved one through their journey”

Whether men supporting women as sons, friends, or partners, or women survivors helping those in the throes of breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Resource Center is at the heart of providing better lives for everyone touched by this terrible disease.

“We know how to support and love and be there for you,” Martinez says. “That’s what we do, and that’s all we do.”

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.”

Guiding Survivors Out of the Woods

On the second day of her freshman year of college, Aspen Matis was raped. 

When “mediation” with her attacker failed, and the school inexplicably moved him into her dorm, Matis was traumatized, scared and left alone. Instead of moving him out, they moved her to a converted motel off campus, where she would sit, alone, staring at the cinder block walls. 

While there, Matis called the National Sexual Assault Hotline – created and operated by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. 

“The person I spoke with was so amazing,” Matis says. “She told me things that sound so obvious in retrospect, but at the time they were revelations to me: ‘This was not your fault. You didn’t cause this. Short shorts don’t cause rape. Weed doesn’t cause rape. Rapists cause rape.’ Talking with a compassionate professional from RAINN became the first step in my healing process.”

After a handful of more calls with RAINN’s highly trained support specialists, Matis decided to leave college. Her new plan: walk the 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail to raise money for RAINN.

Beyond operating the hotline and providing other victim services that have touched more than 3.2 million survivors and their loved ones since 1994, RAINN works with national media and the entertainment industry to elevate sexual violence storylines across the country. RAINN also works to expand the use of DNA in unsolved rape kits, reduce the backlog of untested rape kits, reform statute of limitations laws, broaden survivors’ access to appropriate medical care, protect young athletes, and bring perpetrators to justice. 

“We founded RAINN more than 25 years ago based on the belief that no survivor should feel alone,” says Founder and President Scott Berkowitz. “While supporting survivors will always be at the core of what we do, we have become the leading voice educating the public and fighting for survivors’ rights in Congress and the states.” 

In 2015, Matis wrote a memoir, “Girl in the Woods,” about her epic trek and painful recovery, which was propelled into the spotlight as a part of Oprah’s Book Club. As a member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau, Matis travels the country spreading awareness about sexual assault and rape, and its frightening frequency. Nearly one in four young women will have such an experience before leaving college.

“The reality is that sexual assault and rape are happening every day and everywhere,” Matis says. “The most convenient thing to do is to pretend that they are rare, because acknowledging this epidemic is uncomfortable and it’s sad and it’s scary. But by denying reality, averting your eyes and just willing it away, you are denying the validity of the struggles of so many people, and also denying them resources that may help them to heal and live a fulfilling life after.

RAINN is doing a wonderful and admirable service for the people who have been through the trauma of sexual assault and for anyone who knows someone or loves someone who has been raped.”