WATSONVILLE — Saturday, April 21, will see the return of the sixth-annual Walk to Stop the Silence in Watsonville.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the goal of the walk is to increase awareness of child sexual abuse in the community and reach out to those victimized.
The walk, which is experiencing an influx of sponsors this year, will start at the City Plaza (at Main and Beach streets) Saturday morning, with registration at 9:30 a.m. Walkers will be entertained by a dance troupe from Watsonville, and many local politicians will address the crowd, including Chief of Police Manny Solano, County Supervisor Greg Caput and Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino.
We asked event organizer Kathy Riley, friend of the Survivors Healing Center and one of the walk organizers, some questions about the event.
Q: What’s new with the Walk to Stop the Silence this year?
A: What is really exciting is this is the first year we are inviting walkers to raise money for us and help support both the walk and our programs in the county. Our walk website, www.walktostopthesilence, has all the info on the event and on how to sign up to raise money to end child sexual abuse in our community.
Q: The Walk starts at City Plaza, correct? Where does it end?
A: The Walk starts at the City Plaza and we walk to St. Patrick’s Church and back to the Plaza. It's a very short walk. Because of the number of people it takes us about an hour.
Q: How many participants are you expecting this year, and how many have signed up so far?
A: The walk has grown in five years from about 150 the first year to 500 this past year. We expect 500 plus this year. Including our collaborators, I would say we have 150 coming so far that we know of.
Q: How many sponsors?
A: We have a total of 19 sponsors and 23 supporters. We have had a great response with many businesses and faith based organizations standing with us in the fight to end child sexual abuse in our communities. We made a lot of calls to businesses this year and found a lot of support for this movement to end child sexual abuse. It is also exciting, for the first time, we have four faith-based groups sponsoring us this year: Holy Cross, Our Lady of the Assumption, Shorelife Community Church and Temple Beth El.
We also have a strong list of collaborators.
Q: How many years have you been doing this walk?
A: This is our sixth year. We are doing it in collaboration with Stop the Silence, which started the walk back east. They do the Race to Stop the Silence, which is the following weekend, on April 29. It is a growing movement. Maria Rodriquez-Castillo — a Watsonville resident who worked for Survivors Healing Center for a number of years as an amazing community organizer — started the walk in Watsonville in 2007. Also, the founder of Stop the Silence, Dr. Pamela Pine, is Amy Pine's sister. Pamela started Stop the Silence in 2004 and Amy Pine and Ellen Bass, both Santa Cruz residents, started Survivors Healing Center in 1987.
Q: How do you think the fight against child sexual abuse is going? Is this a growing problem?
A: The sexual abuse of children is an ongoing problem. When Survivors Healing Center first started out 25 years ago, we were one in a handful of agencies in the U.S. focused on treatment for survivors and prevention work. The last 25 years has seen a big increase in the number of agencies and programs devoted to helping survivors and doing prevention work, which is really good. There continues to be growing awareness about the problem, but as you can see when you hear about things like Penn State or the recent Boy Scout issues, etc. it's easy to see there is still a lot of work to be done in this area
Q: What else can you tell me?
A: There are very high societal costs to sexual abuse of children. Children that are abused, the research shows their brains develop differently, leaving them more vulnerable as adults to anxiety and depression. What also has been coming out in the last 10 years is how many boys are sexually abused; it's not just girls. It is not just our girls we need to watch out for, it's our boys too. And men that were sexually abused, there can be a lot of shame there, because men are supposed to be strong and able to protect themselves, etc. And it's great because more and more men are coming out and saying it happened to me, it happened to me too. Oprah did a great two part special last year just on men which was amazing.
The Survivors Healing Center invites community members to join the fight to end child sexual abuse. For more information, visit www.walktostopthesilence.org.
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