2013-09-26 / Community

Forum to address attacks on women

County seeing spike in reported sexual assaults
By Darleen Principe

Rachel Lambert was stunned when she first saw the little girl.

The child, nervous and dazed, looked a lot like her.

“She could’ve been my daughter,” said Lambert, describing a recent encounter with a young sexual assault victim in Ventura County. Because the case is still ongoing, the crisis counselor could not go into too much detail about the situation.

Lambert, who works for the Coalition for Family Harmony— a rape crisis center based out of Oxnard—said the sexual assault cases involving children hit her the hardest.

“We always think that this kind of thing would never happen to someone we love, that we’re safe from it because of X, Y or Z,” Lambert said. “But this little girl, because she easily could have been my own child . . . that really brought it home for me.

“Unfortunately, there’s no determination of race, income or where you live that makes you completely safe from a crime like that.”

GUEST SPEAKER—Maureen Shea, a professional boxer, will present the keynote address at the free seminar “Empowered: Take Charge of Your Health and Safety” on Sat., Sept. 28 at CLU in Thousand Oaks. 
Courtesy of CLU GUEST SPEAKER—Maureen Shea, a professional boxer, will present the keynote address at the free seminar “Empowered: Take Charge of Your Health and Safety” on Sat., Sept. 28 at CLU in Thousand Oaks. Courtesy of CLU The coalition, which provides assistance to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Ventura County, handled a total of 304 cases between September 2011 and August 2012—more than double the 135 cases they handled during the previous fiscal year.

According to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the number of reported rapes throughout the county jumped from 33 in 2011 to 51 in 2012. Additionally, the number of domestic violence incidents rose from 1,505 to 1,603 cases countywide.

The recent increase in sexual assault and domestic violence is why local law enforcement, in collaboration with several community partners, has decided to put on a free women’s health and safety forum this Saturday at California Lutheran University.

The Thousand Oaks Police Department is spearheading the Sept. 28 event.

“We’ve always had quite a few domestic violence or dating violence incidents here in Ventura County,” said Senior Dep. Tim Lohman, a TOPD spokesperson. “But there has been an overall rise recently. And when we see rises in certain areas, that’s when we tend to focus on putting information out there.”

Although the primary goal of the upcoming forum is to empower young women, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24—who are at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted—the event is open to all community members.

Sexual assault does not only affect women, Lambert said.

While one out of every four females is sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, one out of every six males also suffers some type of sexual abuse, she said.

“ I think it would be great for women of all ages to attend this forum, but it’s not just an issue of women’s safety,” the crisis counselor said. “To create a community between men and women that is supportive of everybody—that is the main thing that a forum like this can do.”

Lambert said the best way to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence is to educate the public and “change the way our society views” those types of crimes.

“How do you make sure that when you go out you’re safe?” she said. “How do you help a friend when you see something could possibly be happening to them? The idea is to create a community that is supportive of one another, as opposed to only keeping yourself safe . . . a community where you’re supporting your peers and your peers are supporting you.”

Besides raising awareness about dating violence and sexual assault, the forum will also address how women can improve their self-esteem and maintain healthy relationships.

“This is something we’ve never done before,” Lohman said. “But we think it’s important for us to work together to educate women.”

The forum will feature several speakers, including Maureen Shea, a professional boxer; Robert Ferguson, a fitness and nutrition expert; and Hannah Grossman, chief medical officer at Los Robles Hospital.

A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided to all attendees. Guests are also encouraged to visit the resource tables, where various community organizations will provide educational materials and other information.

The event takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sat., Sept. 28 at CLU’s Lundring Events Center, 60 W. Olsen Road, in Thousand Oaks.

For additional details or to reserve a spot, visit www.empoweredwomen.eventbrite.com.

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