News Updates

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month!

Human trafficking is a violent act against humanity. Traffickers and purchasers of those who are victimized lack a conscience, remorse, or respect for the women, men, children, and youth who are victimized by the atrocities that occur when one is trafficked.  Each day in our Sonoma County community more victims are held hostage and so we take this month of January to honor those survivors of these crimes against humanity that have been dealt them. We use this time to heighten our community’s awareness that Verity and many community partners are committed to ending this crime and to seeing that both traffickers and purchasers are held accountable for what they have done to those they have victimized.

This year Sonoma County’s Human Trafficking Task Force is hosting film events and having billboards placed in strategic parts of our county to both heighten awareness and to bring forth discussion as to how we, as a community, can put an end to this vicious crime and support those survivors to reclaim their lives in dignity and with respect.

Did you know?

Verity  advocates have some important information about trafficking in our county to share with you:

  • Verity worked with over 40 human trafficking victims last year by providing crisis intervention, food, shelter, transportation, referrals and much more.
  • The average age for a victim be forced into the sex industry in Sonoma County is estimated to be between 12-14 years.
  • Victims are usually targeted based on vulnerability. Homelessness, experience in foster care, previous experiences of sexual or domestic violence, and younger age all play a factor in a victim’s susceptibility to being trafficked.
  • Perpetrators or “buyers” come from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds. Our advocates have seen engineers, bankers, brew-masters, jewelers, attorneys, photographers, marijuana growers, laborers, and others. We’ve seen married men, fathers, single men, and a son-in-law gifting purchased sex to his father-in-law.

 

See all of our graphics here.

 

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Verity’s office is closed from 12/23/17 – 1/1/18!

Verity’s office will be closed from 5 PM on Friday, December 22nd until Tuesday, January 2nd at 9 AM. 

While our staff will be taking the week off to rest and enjoy the holiday season with their loved ones, that does not mean we are not here for you. As always, our Crisis Line will be up and running, fully staffed by volunteers and staff members.

Whether you just need a person to listen to you or are having a crisis, we are here for you. Please do not hesitate to call. Our hotline is (707) 545-7273. We are here for you.

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Chris Castillo, Verity’s Executive Director, wins Nonprofit Leadership Award

Chris Castillo, of Santa Rosa’s Verity, has won one of North Bay Business Journal’s Nonprofit Leadership Awards. From Chris:

I want to thank you for this tremendous honor. And yet I want to say that yes I lead this organization but we would not be who or where we are without the tremendous current and past staff. So while I personally accept this honor, I do it on behalf of my Team Verity as well as all who have been victimized by rape and sexual violence. They truly are my heroes. Thank you from the depths of my heart.

Read more here.

Check out our pictures and video from the event on Facebook! Thank you for being a part of the Verity community, whether you’re a volunteer, donor, client, or friend of the agency — we couldn’t do it without you!
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2017 Fundraising Breakfast Cancelled

We cannot, in good conscience, devote the time, money, and people-power necessary to putting on a fundraiser when our communities need that time, money, and people-power for far more pressing needs. Thank you so much for standing by us with this decision, which is made on behalf of our entire community of Sonoma County.

We hope to reschedule this event in the spring of 2018, once we know what the long-term impacts of this firestorm will be on our clients and on our community as a whole. In the meantime, please remember if you need absolutely anything from our team, please reach out and ask for help. We are here for you.

Read our letter here.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email us at info@ourverity.org or call us at 707-545-7270. Thank you for making Sonoma County’s community as strong as it is!

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Resources for Fire Volunteers and Evacuees

First of all, we do hope that you and those you love are safe and sound. All Verity staff members and their families are safe as of now, although a few have had to evacuate. Our building on Piner Road is still standing and in good condition, especially considering the wreckage in the area. The rest of our neighborhood is bleak and burnt, and rebuilding isn’t going to be easy. We will not be returning to the office this week, but our staff who are able to are visiting evacuation centers and volunteering all over the county to make sure there is no lapse in services.

Our crisis line is (707) 545-7273. Even if you need to process the trauma of this disaster, unrelated to sexual violence, we are here to listen.

If you would like to request an in-person visit to a specific place, please email us at info@ourverity.org to request an advocate visit. If you know of a specific place that needs more volunteerpower, please also reach out to info@ourverity.org and we will try to get some of our peoplepower out there.

You can check our Facebook page for the most updated resources for volunteering and resources, and please feel free to comment or message us on that platform to get a hold of us.

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The Redwood Empire Food Bank needs a lot of volunteerpower and financial support. If you’d like to volunteer, call 707.523.7900 first to make sure they still need your help.
From their website: 

In order for us to continue meeting the existing need and increase our provision of help, we need your support.

Two ways to help right now:
  1. Make a financial donation. We have the capacity to increase the amount of food we provide to the community – we just need the financial resources to make this possible.
  2. Bring food donations to the REFB right now. We are in dire need of ready-to-eat, non-perishable foods that we can provide to the evacuation centers immediately. These foods should be easy to open and easy to eat – many shelters do not have kitchens for heating and preparing food. Please do not bring glass containers.
    Please note, the off-ramp at Airport Blvd. is currently closed in both directions. To get to our facility, please take the Shiloh Road exit heading west, take a left on Skylane Blvd., until you meet Airport Blvd. again. Our address is 3990 Brickway Blvd., Santa Rosa, CA

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Petaluma People’s Services also needs volunteerpower answering phones and coordinating potential housing for victims of the fire. Their address is at 1500A Petaluma Blvd South, Petaluma, CA 94952.  Please call them at (707) 765-8488 to make sure they still need volunteers before heading over.

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The material needs of the shelters in Petaluma change constantly. If you have things to donate, please hold onto them for another day or so. Supplies are surely going to need to be replenished, but shelters only have so much room. Please continue to check this living Google Document with updating lists of resources available and needs from the community. 

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We have support systems all over the state and country. Rape Trauma Services of San Mateo County is helping staff our crisis line; they have access to the same list of resources that we give our new Crisis Line Volunteers, and are staffing our line 24/7 so that we have more agency to go be out in the field, in evacuation centers, meeting with clients, and going with survivors to the hospital and law enforcement interviews.
The Crisis Call Center in Nevada is also offering to help anyone who is in crisis: they have a 24/7 crisis line that you are welcome to call 775-784-8090. If you’d prefer to text, they have a text line. Text the word “Listen” to 839863 to be connected to someone. From the Center:

“We won’t have access phone numbers to the local services, shelters and such in Santa Rosa but we can help anyone that may be feeling overwhelmed or are feeling heightened levels of anxiety and talk with them through their crisis until they are feeling stronger. We can google services for them if needed. We are a confidential crisis line and a safe place to talk. If our call room staff or volunteers are all on the phones any call that comes in will roll over to the national suicide hotlines which is 1800-273-8255 – they help people experiencing trauma too… not just those feeling suicidal. Sending healing thoughts to everyone at Verity and all of those touched by the fires.”

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Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Verity if there’s anything we can do to support you through this trying time.
We are so thankful for the resilience of this community.

Verity staff has been all over the county connecting with survivors and volunteering to help evacuees.

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Immigrants who face sexual assault are avoiding police and dropping court cases — why?

Everyone who resides in or enters the United States of America has constitutional rights. Victims of crimes, especially victims of crimes committed by U.S. citizens, are entitled to protection under the law. Undocumented immigrants who are victims of sexual or domestic violence can apply for a U-Visa if they cooperate with law enforcement, and many community resources exist for undocumented victims and their families. So, why are immigrants reporting fewer crimes in recent months?

Melissa Jeltsen with Huffpost brings us news of a new survey that explores the answers to that question.

Immigrants are increasingly reluctant to report domestic violence and sexual assault, citing fears of deportation under President Donald Trump, according to a survey released this month of 715 victim advocates and attorneys in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

In April, a coalition of national organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault conducted the “2017 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors” to get hard data on how the country’s changing immigration policies were affecting their clients. Nearly 80 percent of advocates reported that survivors had expressed concerns about contacting police. Forty-three percent of advocates said they had personally worked with a survivor who dropped a civil or criminal case because they were too scared to continue. Three-quarters of respondents reported that survivors were worried about going to court.

The survey’s findings offer even more evidence for what advocates and law enforcement leaders predicted: Trump’s immigration crackdown is driving undocumented victims of crime underground.

To read more on this story from Melissa Jeltsen, click here.

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Georgina Tello Bugarin recognized by Argus Courier

This week, Petaluma’s newspaper, the Argus Courier, highlighted the work of one of our advocates who works half-time out of the Petaluma Police Department. They love her, we love her, and her clients love her, so we are so glad her work is being recognized!

[Georgina Tello] Bugarin, who works full-time for the nonprofit Verity, which operates the county’s rape crisis center, spends 20 hours a week working from the police headquarters to help victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Those cases are often difficult to navigate, entangled in complex webs of emotion and fear, Bugarin said. Though her work is a challenge, her reward comes from helping victims rediscover themselves outside of the violence that has shaped their lives.

“I’m very upset about the victims being mistreated,” said Bugarin, a 46-year-old Petaluma resident. “My main motivation is trying to give voice to those victims.”

Bugarin, a bilingual native of Guanajuato, Mexico, has worked with Petaluma police for nearly two years, though the advocate position has existed in the department since 1999. She works with an average of 22 clients each month, and is often called to the scene as officers respond to incidents, or is tasked with reaching out to victims after reports are filed.

She links victims to local resources, including shelters, clinics or counseling, and will attend court dates with victims and provide continued support. Some victims don’t return her calls or aren’t ready to move forward, Bugarin said, but she offers her services regardless.

“What I’m trying to do is tell them that I’m there for them to support whatever decision they’re going to make,” she said. “I provide information and resources and whatever they decide, I’m there for them.”

Petaluma was among the cities to recognize April 2017 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so we are thrilled that the awareness and attention is spreading across the county, thanks in large part to the work of Verity staff and our partner agencies! Read more here.

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SRJC’s First Annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”

Verity attended, initiated, or hosted 40 different events throughout April 2017 in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month, and we wanted to highlight one of our favorites. This event brought together over 200 people to raise awareness among the young people who need preventative education the most, and we were honored to be invited and for our Coaching Boys Into Men facilitator, Zach, to be one of the featured speakers.

We love when Verity and our staff members make the news. The Press Democrat has some great coverage, photos, and videos of the Santa Rosa Junior College’s First Annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, which brought together students from Sonoma State, the Junior College, and community members from a variety of agencies together to raise awareness about sexual violence and the intersections of identity that affect sexual violence.

‘This is a real, direct, easy way for people to participate; just to really do a little thing to step out of your own perspective,’ said Zach Neeley, prevention educator for Verity, a sexual assault awareness advocacy group that has provided support to the JC’s effort to make violence awareness and prevention something more student-athletes talk about.

Read more from the Press Democrat here and check out pictures from the Santa Rosa Junior College. We also took some photos of our own, which you can see on our Instagram!

 

 

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StoryCorps at Verity!

Late last year, StoryCorps staff members reached out to the Verity team and asked us if we’d like to have a recording day at our office. On Valentine’s Day, 2017, they came to our office in Santa Rosa to record 7 of our staff members and our Board Chair in various conversations about all sorts of topics.  Here is a little bit about what they do, and why they do what they do:

StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.

We are so honored and humbled to be a part of this project, and we look forward to sharing some of the snippets of recordings with you! Some of these recordings will be in the Library of Congress for years and years to come; other recordings will become treasured parts of families and only be used internally. Either way, this has been a wonderful and cathartic experience for everyone involved. Thanks for thinking of us, StoryCorps!

Regardless of how you are involved with Verity, thank you for being a part of our story!

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Board President Cecile Focha is a Star!

We love when our all-stars are recognized for their invaluable contributions to the Sonoma County community. Cecile Focha, our President of our Board of Directors, was recently honored in this Star Seekers’ Facebook Post.

“Time for another fantastic unsung heroine, today honoring Cecile Focha! Cecile is a Sergeant with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Over a 20 year career as a deputy, she worked on the streets and in investigations. She was the first female Detective Sergeant in the history of the So Co Sheriff’s Office, where she supervised the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Detective Unit. Cecile was instrumental in establishing the Sonoma County Family Justice Center, and was the very first Press Information Officer for the agency responsible for all media relations. She is President of the Board of Directors for Verity ( the county’s only rape crisis center). In addition, she is the Northern Chapter Vice-President for PORAC, serves as a Roseland University Prep Mentor to a college-bound student, and a SRJC police academy instructor for Sex Crimes Investigation, Cultural Diversity, Racial Profiling, Hate Crimes, Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking and vehicle operations. If that wasn’t enough, she helped establish a teen driving program – SRJC Community Ed (Alive at 25) – which is a model program recognized at the state level for its effectiveness. Cecile supports the Russian River Fly Fishers, Events with Sole, Boy Scouts of America, Casting for Recovery (breast cancer group) as retreat volunteer and river guide, and is a Santa Rosa AAUW (American Association of University Women) member. As we pay attention to honor those who put their lives on the line for us, let’s take a moment to honor this heroine of Sonoma County. Thanks Cecile!!”

 

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Learn about what's new at Verity, announcements from our partner organizations, and ideas to help you get involved in fighting sexual violence.
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