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Local News

Santa Barbara DA’s Office Honors Crime Victims, Advocates

Annual event helps commemorate National Crime Victims' Rights Week

Crime victims and advocates were recognized Friday by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. From left are Megan Riker Rheinschild, director of the DA’s Victim/Witness Services; CALM Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez; District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Delaney Henderson, Nora Wallace and Crystal Bedolla.
Crime victims and advocates were recognized Friday by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. From left are Megan Riker Rheinschild, director of the DA’s Victim/Witness Services; CALM Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez; District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Delaney Henderson, Nora Wallace and Crystal Bedolla. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Delaney Henderson was 15 when she was raped by a male classmate.

She didn't speak out about the crime. Like many sex-crime victims, she felt ashamed and afraid.

But when another girl confided in her that she had been raped by the same boy, she decided it was time to stop the violence.

"I didn't want to be in the spotlight," she said, "but someone had to speak up. It's not shameful to be a victim or a survivor. It's shameful to be a predator and a bully."

After Henderson reported her attack, she was bullied and called a snitch by other classmates. One of the attacker's friends made a rap song attacking her with words. 

Henderson, now 20, was one of three people honored Friday by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney Attorney's Office to commemorate National Crime Victims' Rights Week. 

Henderson received the Citizen of Courage Award.

Cecilia Rodriguez and Crystal Bedolla each received the Victim Service Award.

Rodriguez, executive director of CALM, was recognized for her "tenacious and tireless work" with the Sexual Assault Response Team. Rodriguez has interviewed 2,000 children over the course of the last 25 years.

"Two thousand times she looked into the eyes of a child who had been hurt," said District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who recalled first meeting her decades ago when she was prosecuting a mother for torturing her 3-year-old child.

Dudley said she watched Rodriguez make the child feel safe enough to express the truth.

Rodriguez said she is committed to helping children.

"When I was a little kid and silent about what was happening to me, in my family, I made a promise that when I was grown up, I would listen to kids," Rodriguez said, fighting back tears. 

Santa Barbara Police Department Detective Crystal Bedolla was recognized for her investigative efforts prosecuting a grandfather who molested his two grandsons. Manuel Peter Munoz, 65, was sentenced to 75 years in prison for the acts.

The victims originally did not want to say anything about the crimes, but they worked with a CALM therapist and the Police Department. A couple years after the crimes, they came forward. 

Deputy District Attorney Paula Waldman said Bedolla worked tirelessly, seven days a weekend, to gather information to prosecute Munoz.

"Detective Bedolla worked with the boys in a way to instill confidence," Waldman said. 

Bedolla said it is a privilege to serve the community. She thanked Police Chief Cam Sanchez for supporting her and letting her do her job.

She said even though she was being honored, it takes a team to solve crimes.

"I am a crime fighter," she said. "That's what I signed up for."

Sanchez said he loved Bedolla like a daughter and thanked everyone in law enforcement.

"I want to thank all of you for putting our victims first," Sanchez said. 

Nora Wallace, a former staff reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press, received the Media Award for her more than two decades of law-enforcement and victim-advocacy reporting.

It's the second time the District Attorney's Office has given out the award.

Last year, the DA's office gave the first award to Tom Bolton, executive editor of Noozhawk, for his gripping reporting on victims of sexual predator Tibor Karsai.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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