Friday, January 15, 2016

Stories of Giving from Sandra Riley

Dear Members of the HLC Team: I am pleased to nominate San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services, Inc., a non-profit organization, for this year’s “Annual Stories of Giving” award. San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services has served victims (survivors) of sexual assault and domestic violence in San Bernardino County for 41 years. Its programs promote understanding and crisis intervention for victims and their families at no charge and without regard to socio-economic status, gender or ethnic origin. The majority of sexual assault and domestic violence victims are women and children. Children are at particular risk both directly, as intended targets of sexual assaults and violence, and indirectly, when their parents are the victims. Research shows there is a direct correlation between poverty and sexual violence. The city of San Bernardino is the poorest city of its size in California and the poorest in the United States after Detroit. One in three of its residents live below the federal poverty level and 11.2 percent of the population is unemployed. The community continues to suffer in the aftermath of the recession and, most recently, the devastating terrorist attack. Its citizen’s socioeconomic circumstances increased the demand for SBSAS crisis intervention services. Currently, SBSAS employs 15 staff members at multiple locations. In 2014, the agency presented 312 educational programs (including those for youth and teens) to approximately 4,800 individuals. Twenty-eight trained volunteers answered calls made to its crisis hotline. Staff performed the following services: accompanied and advocated for 878 victims when court proceedings were initiated; provided services to 1,177 to victims and their families (351 of which were children) when crisis invention was necessary; and, cooperated with law enforcement in numerous forensic investigations. It is expected these numbers will increase significantly when statistics are compiled for 2015. December 2nd, the horrific day in San Bernardino when terrorist struck, brought new challenges to the organization. So many lives were affected and the community was overwhelmed. SBSAS counselors were among the first responders. They were trained and ready to begin crisis intervention and helping those that needed it the most. Within 5 minutes of receiving notice the “Center” was in lock down SBSAS’ counselors were in their positions. The next 72 hours were filled responding to the needs of victims and their families. Staff traveled to hospitals providing counseling services to those in need; they attended candle light vigils; and, provided additional counseling sessions in the aftermath of the attack. Calls to SBSAS increased after the shootings from the community (at large) who needed empathetic support and someone to talk to about what happened on that terrible day. This assault was personal to community and its fallout will continue for months to come. SBSAS’ team will continue to provide wrap-around services to victims in its community. Thank you for considering San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services as a possible recipient of The HLC Team’s Annual Stories of Giving award. Sincerely, Sandra R. Riley

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