Saturday, October 24, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 34
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Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on October 7th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 32

The Awareness Issue 2020

By SUN STAFF

It’s October, and that means more than just the beginning of spooky season. This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which means that it’s time for the Sun’s annual Awareness issue! This year you can read about state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s work to help prevent domestic violence and aid its victims, a new event dedicated to creating a community for individuals affected by breast cancer, and what the pandemic means for child abuse and its victims.


State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson reflects on years of advocating for domestic violence survivors as she nears the end of her political career

BY MALEA MARTIN

Looking back at State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s legislative track record, her commitment to preventing domestic violence is indisputable. Jackson has authored or co-authored at least eight different bills over the years specifically pertaining to domestic violence, plus countless more that address related issues like sexual assault, stalking, and workplace rights. 

But Jackson’s impact on domestic violence prevention started long before she held elected office: Domestic violence issues first landed on Jackson’s radar in the late 1970s when she was fresh out of law school and working in the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.


THE GOOD FIGHT
During the past two decades, Hannah-Beth Jackson has served Santa Barbara County as both a state Assembly member and senator. Over the years, she’s been a fierce advocate for domestic violence prevention and survivors through her legislation.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNAH-BETH JACKSON’S OFFICE

“I saw a shocking number of cases coming in,” she said. “The more I dug into it, the more I realized that this actually was not so unusual, and in fact, it actually has had epidemic proportions to it.”

Jackson remembers that when she was first practicing law, intimate partner violence wasn’t really considered a crime. 

“The basic culture was that the man’s home is his castle, and what goes on behind closed doors is really not the business of law enforcement,” she said. “I thought that was absolutely ridiculous. … I remember being very insistent that, when we had a case of domestic violence, the case be prosecuted and that the perpetrator have to suffer some consequences.”

Jan Campbell, executive director of Domestic Violence Solutions, recalls that Jackson was involved with the organization’s early founding, when it was called Shelter Services for Women, and the senator continued to be supportive over the years.

“She’s just been a tireless advocate in not only her role as an attorney but also in her role in state government,” Campbell said. 

Before Jackson’s current position as state senator, which she’s held since 2013, Jackson was an Assembly member from 1999 to 2004. 

“When I got to the Legislature, I immediately started investigating what we could do to create both better awareness and better outcomes for the victims,” Jackson said. 

She worked to address how dangerous domestic violence is, as it all too often escalates into more serious crimes like homicide. 

“I wrote legislation that requires that if somebody is accused of domestic violence and a restraining order is issued, and they violate that restraining order, the prosecutor is required to notify the victim when a bail hearing for that alleged perpetrator is going to occur,” Jackson said.

This allows the victim to testify so that the court can make an informed determination about whether the perpetrator is at risk of reoffending, Jackson said.

“This bill arose out of a case in Ventura involving a woman,” Jackson said. “[Her] ex-husband had violated restraining orders something like 20 or 30 times. They let him out on his own recognizance. … He broke into her home at 6 in the morning and, in front of their three children, stabbed her to death.”

In response to the tragedy, Jackson’s bill established what she calls a “cooling off period,” so that perpetrators are held without bail until the case is resolved. 

Jackson is also proud of a bill that prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who suffered domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

“It allows the employee to request reasonable accommodations to ensure their safety in the workplace,” Jackson said. “It also calls for implementing a workplace safety plan in response to the potential for a domestic violence incident.”

Campbell from Domestic Violence Solutions said that Jackson’s legislation and support over the years has helped her organization immensely.

“She looks at things holistically,” Campbell said. “She’s done so many things to strengthen families and particularly the role of women.”

“The more stable people are, the less trauma they have to deal with,” and the less domestic violence occurs, Campbell added. 

There’s no question that the pandemic has increased stress for many people, and Campbell said there’s been a corresponding uptick in domestic violence calls. 

“We had so many more calls in the north part of the county, because coronavirus was hitting Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Lompoc much harder with COVID,” Campbell said. “Domestic violence doesn’t really discriminate based on race or gender or economic stability, but different things create spikes.”

Though 2020 will be Jackson’s last year in office—she’s retiring from politics this year—Campbell is hopeful that local political advocacy for domestic violence issues will continue. She expects that Monique Limón, a state Assembly member running for Jackson’s seat, will continue Jackson’s legacy if elected.

Campbell also commended recent efforts from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who on Sept. 29 announced that he had signed five bills into law that support survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other abuse crimes.

“The legislation that he signed, primarily around funding and some housing issues, is all very helpful,” Campbell said. “He understands that, when you’re dealing with domestic violence, you’re not just dealing with an isolated group of people. This affects the entire community.”

And though this will be Jackson’s last term, she said it won’t be the last the community sees of her.

“I’m sure there’s still mischief to be made,” Jackson said with a laugh. 

Reach Staff Writer Malea Martin at mmartin@santamariasun.com.


Surfing for Hope is holding its first Women’s Cancer Survivor Summit in October.

BY KAREN GARCIA

Breast cancer has affected nearly 1,200 individuals on the Central Coast, according to the most recent 2018 Community Health Assessment released by SLO County’s Public Health Department. Between 2010 and 2014, according to the report, 201 females lost their battle with breast cancer. 

The American Cancer Society believes that women who are now being diagnosed with breast cancer may have a better outlook as treatments improve over time. 


Surf’s up
To learn more about the Surfing for Hope Foundation and its upcoming summit, visit surfingforhope.org.

CELEBRATING SURVIVORS
Surfing for Hope Foundation is holding its first Women’s Cancer Survivor Camp in Pismo Beach on Oct. 10 for women currently undergoing treatment or who have completed cancer treatment.
IMAGE COURTESY OF SURFING FOR HOPE

Surfing for Hope founder Bob Voglin is continuing his mission of creating a supportive space for those undergoing cancer treatment or individuals with a family member battling cancer by celebrating breast cancer survivors. The Surfing for Hope team is holding its first Women’s Cancer Survivor Summit, slated for Oct. 10 on the shores of Pismo Beach. During this time of the year, the nonprofit normally hosts an annual surf contest, but with COVID-19 safety practices in mind, it pivoted to creating a series of small-group cancer survivor summits. 

In light of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, co-founder Dr. Tom Spillane said the nonprofit decided to make this summit exclusively for women who are currently undergoing treatment or those who’ve completed cancer treatment, as well as oncology health care providers.

The day’s events include yoga instruction, a beginner’s surf instruction by the Shell Beach Surf Shop, and a gourmet luncheon free of charge to all participants. Spillane will also lead a brief discussion on survivorship as well as give an update on breast cancer treatments and resources. The talk will be held via Zoom and is open to the public. 

Voglin said the first summit has about 28 individuals registered for the event, and others interested can put their name on a waitlist on the nonprofit’s website. The summit’s goal, Voglin said, is to celebrate these women, whatever stage of their journey they’re in, and to create a community. The activities are pressure-free—it’s up to the participant to decide how they would like to enjoy their day.

He also hopes to share the healing powers he feels the beach and the ocean have. 

“Surfing has been really instrumental in my life. It’s helped me through many challenges, and my toughest one was my cancer experience,” Voglin said. “So we want to share that and also the message that ‘you’re not alone.’”

A sense of community support and the ocean helped Voglin get through his battle with tongue and throat cancer after he received his diagnoses in 2004. His oncologist was Dr. Spillane, who he later partnered with to create Surfing for Hope. 

Voglin surfed every day until the disease and treatments took a toll on his body, but he never forgot the medical team behind his treatment process and the community of friends and family that cheered him on along the way. On the road to recovery, Voglin said he returned to the water, finding the waves and outdoor activity therapeutic. It was a feeling he said he had to share with others.

Creating a community of people that includes cancer survivors, Voglin said, brings hope to those who are still undergoing treatment. 

“It’s to help people feel more positive and really help them to continue doing what they can in their lives and put their really huge challenge behind them,” he said. 

With the help of Spillane and French Hospital, Voglin was able to create a surf contest, cancer resource health fair, and a memorial paddle-out. Through the contest, the nonprofit has donated more than $200,000 toward the Hearst Cancer Resource Center and the resource center at French Hospital. 

The nonprofit’s Pure Stoke Surf Camp is for youth cancer survivors or children with family members fighting cancer. Voglin said children who experience the pain and suffering of their loved one are often overlooked by the medical cancer support community. Similar to the Women’s Summit, the Pure Stoke Surf Camp provides a safe and fun environment for children to heal among their peers. 

Linzie Littler, her two daughters, and her mother, who’s a cancer survivor, have made the trip from Riverside once a month for the camp. The family has been making the drive for five years now, and her daughters now have friends they look forward to seeing at the camp, and she and her mother have connected with other families as well. 

“They give the kids just a common ground where they can unwind with other kids that have seen and been through the exact same journey they’ve been through. And the parents, it gives us a time to take a breath, unwind, and check in with each other,” Littler said.

It’s encouraging for Littler and her family to be in this environment because they don’t have to constantly talk about or relive their experience. It’s a place for her children to be children and not worry about their family’s health concerns.

“We can just lean on each other for advice, encouragement, or whatever we need from each other,” she said. 

Staff Writer Karen Garcia can be reached at kgarcia@newtimesslo.com


With schools closed due to COVID-19, SLO County sees a drop in reports of child abuse

BY KASEY BUBNASH

When COVID-19 hit and local schools closed in mid-March, the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services almost immediately saw a decline in reports of suspected child abuse. 

In March, calls to the county’s child abuse reporting hotline were down by 25 percent compared to the same month in 2019, according to data collected by the SLO County Department of Social Services. April saw a 32 percent decline from the same month last year, and reports of suspected child abuse fell by 33 percent in May compared to the year before. 


When in doubt, report your concerns
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline at (805) 781-5437 or 1-800-834-5437.

In normal times, that drop would be something to celebrate. But now, with school campuses closed and children away from their teachers, the sudden change is troubling to child welfare experts like Linda Belch, deputy director of SLO County Adult and Children’s Services

“We were all concerned about making sure that these kids didn’t go unseen,” Belch told the Sun

Like all professionals who are likely to come into contact with children, teachers and other public school employees are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse. Historically, school employees file such reports more often than any group in California. They usually see kids every day, Belch said, and are trained to spot the telltale signs of abuse or neglect—bruises, dirty clothes, unruly behavior. 

So it’s no surprise that when schools closed and teachers stopped seeing their students each day, reports of child abuse dropped throughout the state. From April through August, reports of suspected child abuse in California fell 28 percent compared to reports during the same months last year, according to data provided to EdSource by the California Department of Social Services. 

Now, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, schools and child welfare professionals are still adjusting to distance learning and the ways in which it’s changed how child abuse is reported.  

In April, Belch said, SLO County Social Services put together a resource guide on spotting, reporting, and preventing child abuse and neglect during the pandemic, which focuses on signs of abuse that community members—grocery store clerks, food delivery workers, and neighbors—should watch for and simple ways to intervene if needed. 

It’s all about getting people who wouldn’t normally think about reporting suspected abuse or neglect involved at a time when mandated reporters aren’t as able to. 

“I think some people are hesitant to call child welfare,” Belch said. But, she said, “I think a lot of people have a really good instinct.” 

Asking kids simple questions like, “What did you have to eat for breakfast today?” or “What is your least favorite part of staying home from school?” can result in telling answers. When in doubt, Belch said, call and report your suspicions. 

The county’s end goal is always to keep a family together, and even just having Social Services check in with parents and caregivers can help to prevent abuse before it happens, Belch said. Sometimes getting a family connected with the right services, whether it be counseling or financial aid, makes all the difference. 

This is a stressful time for everyone, Belch said, especially for parents of school-aged children. Families are stuck at home together all day, and many parents are struggling with financial hits while also trying to help their kids with virtual learning. 

“It’s unfortunately just a ripe situation for abuse to happen,” Belch said. 

Things appear to be steadily improving. In June, July, and August, SLO County Social Services had closer to normal numbers of reports of child abuse, holding out at around 10 percent less than usual. 

But Belch said that fewer reports now are coming from school employees and more from law enforcement officers responding to calls for service, typically reports of domestic disputes and violence. Belch said that means something bad has already happened by the time Social Services gets involved, and they’d like to be engaged with at-risk families a lot earlier. 

Arroyo Grande High School Counselor Joanna Onato-Molina is one of the many local school employees working to increse engagement. 

After the sudden transition to distance learning in the spring and the chaos that followed, Onato-Molina said counselors in the Lucia Mar Unified School District got together to brainstorm solutions to the problem of reporting abuse and neglect. 

As a counselor, Onato-Molina said she often works with at-risk kids and their families, and she knows that a lot of the homes her students are now in all day are not ideal for learning or living. 

“Some parents are alcoholics,” she said. “Some parents are abusive.” 

When kids are dealing with tough situations at home, it often shows—in their behavior, their grades, and in their appearance. But now teachers have fewer signals to watch for. 

Although elementary school kids in the Lucia Mar district are encouraged to keep their cameras on during Google Meets, it’s optional for kids in higher grades. A lot of students are embarrassed by where they live or are caring for younger siblings while trying to attend school themselves, Onato-Molina said, and educators can’t and don’t want to force students to show more of their private lives than they want to. 

But that also means bruises and other signs of neglect go unseen. 

There is, however, one glaring red flag signaling that kids aren’t OK: “They’re not showing up.” 

“When you don’t have support at home,” Onato-Molina said, “and you have a parent that works all day long, and you have a kid who was already at-risk, the one thing they love to do is just not do it.”

So in some ways COVID-19 has actually made it easier for educators to spot the kids who have serious issues at home. Teachers send counselors lists of students who consistently miss class and assignments, and counselors check in with those students and their families and connect them with whatever resources they need. 

 It’s the kids who fall somewhere in between that are difficult to identify from afar.  

 At the beginning of this school year, Lucia Mar launched a new program aimed at regularly checking in with and identifying the needs of students. Each Friday, students in elementary school go to “care groups,” and junior high and high school students go to “advisory” classes, where they take a survey about how they’re feeling about schoolwork, their mental health, and their home lives. 

Teachers, counselors, and administrators look over the surveys, and students who divulge concerning information are checked in on. The process has already provided schools with valuable information. It’s helped schools pick out the most at-risk students as intended, but it’s also helped identify trending emotions and common problems.  

“Right now,” Onato-Molina said, “most of the concerns and most of what we’re seeing is just students really struggling with not being able to be around their peers and not having that social interaction.”

 “Having this advisory is something we want to continue outside of COVID,” she said, “because we’ve learned that it’s a valuable tool for us.” 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at kbubnash@newtimesslo.com.









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