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Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center Honors Its ‘Shining Stars’

Sheriff Bill Brown and his detectives are among those recognized for helping the organization support victims of sexual assault

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery from the event.]

Who: Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center

What: Shining Star Awards

When: Thursday, Sept. 19

Where: Rooftop Perch of the Canary Hotel, 31 W. Carrillo St. in Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center recognized special honorees on the blustery rooftop of the Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara on Thursday night.

More than 100 dignitaries, supporters and volunteers enjoyed gourmet cheese, wine and cocktails as they gathered to pay tribute to individuals and groups, in the form of Shining Star Awards, who have served as outstanding advocates of the organization, which is dedicated and committed to ending sexual assault.

SBRCC Executive Director Elsa Granados estimated that the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center has served more than 10,000 survivors of sexual assault and their significant others in the past 35 years.

Assemblyman Das Williams served as master of ceremonies.

“The effects of sexual assault ripple negatively throughout the rest of society," he said. "They don’t just harm the victim; they also harm their family and loved ones. Only about 16 percent of sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement. I am proud to say that last year the SBRCC assisted 700 victims and their loved ones in our community.”

Longtime agency volunteer and now board president Mary O’Gorman said, “The Rape Crisis Center started in a garage in Santa Barbara. There was no other advocacy group to support the victim in rape cases. This was the first nonprofit that I ever volunteered for; that was back in 1977. I was motivated by the kidnap and rape of three women. Thirty-five years later, things have changed. But it is still a case by case struggle.”

O’Gorman speaks from decades of experience in the field. She served as a probation officer for 15 years in Ventura. She worked as a volunteer advocate on the Rape Crisis Hotline during the 1970s.

A poignant part of the program was when client “Ivonne” spoke to the gathered attendees.

“I want to thank you for giving me a counselor," she said. "I didn’t know that sexual trauma was a reason for my problems. I just tried to cover everything up and try to forget. Having therapy from the Rape Crisis Center has helped me so much. I now feel confident to move forward in my life, and I have set goals for myself.”

Cousin Mike Mitchell and estate trustee Sandra Howard spoke on behalf of Susan Trescher, who received a Shining Star Award posthumously in recognition of the $250,000 bequest she left to SBRCC. Howard said Trescher was a tireless advocate for women.

A Mesa resident, she donated to the center throughout her lifetime. She was also the first woman to serve on the Santa Barbara Bank & Trust Board of Directors.

“Susan believed that women who were empowered and strong benefited all mankind,” Howard said.

Another Shining Star Award went to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department's Investigative Unit.

“This unit not only carefully prepares investigations in sexual assault cases — they are also very sensitive to and understanding of the survivors they work with," presenter and District Attorney Ben Lading said. "They gently walk them through the system. They are there for them.”

Granados stated, “The honorees are people who have greatly contributed to making it possible for survivors to come forward and disclose their experience without stigma.”

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson astutely handled the appeal for donations. A featured raffle item was a trip for two to Aruba for seven days and six nights at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, including airfare.

Already in the planning stages is the Rape Crisis Center’s signature event, Chocolate de Vine, to be held May 3, 2014 — this year in a new location at the Greek Orthodox Church, 1205 San Antonio Creek Road in Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center is a private, nonprofit agency that has provided counseling, crisis intervention and support services to survivors of sexual assault and their families since 1974. The organization began with a handful of volunteers who identified a critical need in the community. Since then, the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center has developed into an organization which each year provides multiple services to hundreds of clients and education to thousands of people in our community.

For more information about the center, call 805.963.6832 or click here.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkSociety. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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