Sunday, September 19, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on August 5th, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 22 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 16, Issue 22

Spotlight on:

Jeni Ambrose, founder, executive director


Most victims of sexual violence don’t report their stories, according to Jeni Ambrose. She draws these figures from several organizations, including the World Health Organization. But she also draws upon her own experiences as a licensed therapist in a private practice located in Santa Barbara. 

Working with survivors of sexual violence, Ambrose sought to make a bigger impact and began looking for comprehensive data on this subject. Much to Ambrose’s surprise, she found that the information she wanted was either scattered or non-existent. 

A map of a preliminary set of sexual violence stories in California, according to Jeni Ambrose, executive director of the Global Change Project.

“I wanted to find something that I can jump on board with,” Ambrose said. “I did a lot of research and found nothing on any sort of significant scale.”

Ambrose realized that the lack of technology became a barrier for victim reporting and data collection. This became the catalyst for, a website for survivors of sexual violence to anonymously report their stories. The site was created by Ambrose and her nonprofit, the Global Change Project. 

Currently in development, the website acts as an intake for victim’s stories. It will offer a questionnaire to those who want to report and maps the reports based on zip code. Due to the taboo nature of sexual violence, Ambrose said that getting their stories out is the first step for victims on their way to recovery. 

The plan is to demonstrate what the problem is in a visual way. From the reports, the website will provide data to law enforcement, advocates, academia, and public health officials. The two main goals of doing this, according to Ambrose, are to help survivors and prevent people from becoming victims. 

She mentions the “Bill Cosby effect”—where one person speaking out causes a flood of more people to come forward with their stories. 

“It’s kind of a snowball effect of empowerment,” Ambrose said. 

Ambrose is counting on three functions of the project to make this happen: the use of social media in concert with the website, a geomapping capability, and the use of smart phones and mobile devices. Victims’ stories appear as a dot on a map based on zip code.

“With the data from MapYourVoice, we are looking to provide information—data sets—that doesn’t exist,” Ambrose said. “When you’re talking about a global epidemic of people who tell what happens to them, it’s not like malaria where people aren’t ashamed of having malaria.”

Through her research, Ambrose estimates that 87 percent of victims don’t report their stories. The statistic is even worse for men, she said. 

“We’re talking about incredibly taboo topics,” Ambrose said. “Specifically males, who feel so much more intimidated about speaking up. Maybe this can be a platform for them.”

It gets even more difficult for victims in rural or remote areas, Ambrose said, where resources are scarce. Because of the pervasiveness of smart phones in the last five years, more people have access to the outside world than ever before. MapYourVoice will also include a free smart phone app. 

A beta version of the project is currently in development and Ambrose hopes to have it ready by this fall. In order to make that possible, a crowdfunding campaign is underway to fund the rest of the project. The goal is to reach $35,000 by the end of September, but the sooner the better, Ambrose said. 

She is also looking for local philanthropy. Ambrose believes her project could be a good social investment for local tech companies.

The website is not fully functional, but Ambrose said she’s already received a flood of emails from people claiming to be survivors, which she will use to build the website. She’s already seeing data emerge from several parts of the county, including Santa Maria. 

“Watching the list grow is part of the validation,” Ambrose said.

To donate to the MapYourVoice project, visit All donations are tax-deductable.


• The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce is organizing a tour of the Santa Maria Airport on Aug. 25 between the hours of 7:30 and 9 a.m. The tour will feature Chris Hastert, general manager of the airport. Also, winners of the “Made in the Santa Maria Valley” logo contest will be announced. There is no cost to attend the tour, but an RSVP is required. To register for the tour, email or call 925-2403, Ext. 812.

Staff Writer David Minsky wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, email, or mail.

Weekly Poll
What should Santa Barbara County prioritize for regulation and ordinance updates?

Cannabis all the way. Growers should be required to get a conditional use permit.
Child care facilities deserve our attention. There are too many barriers for these businesses.
It's not glamorous, but wireless communication needs to come into compliance with federal rules.
The environment should be prioritized. Oil and gas operations on land need more regulations.

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