Sexual assault victim's mother thanks local non-profit for support

Kassandra Gutierrez Image
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Sexual assault victim's mother thanks local non-profit for support
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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. A local nonprofit -- Centro la Familia -- has been helping victims for the last 50 years.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- "Never in your mind would you think that, no matter how much I took care of them, this could still happen in front of you in your own home."

This Central Valley mother, who we'll refer to as Maria, is speaking about the devastating moment she discovered her daughter was being sexually assaulted by a close family friend.

Her daughter lives with cerebral palsy and has very limited mobility with only the use of her right hand.

The abuse went on for two months in 2014 - but her daughter soon found the strength to speak up.

Maria mentions, "She was brave, she is a strong lady and our family is strong, and this united us even more."

Early in the case, Maria sought help from Centro La Familia Advocacy Services in Fresno.

Victim Advocate Chin Vang says reporting the abuse is important because it creates a paper trail that is critical in the criminal justice process.

"A lot of the time, some of the victims don't like to come forward because they don't feel like their abusers get the punishment they deserve for what they did to them," says Vang.

The number of new cases the organization has seen through the pandemic is alarming.

107 sexual assault victims came forward in 2020. That number nearly doubled to 210 victims in 2021.

In just the first few months of this year, Centro la Familia has seen 166 victims.

"We have to believe and fight for those kids, whether they are disabled or not, because a lot of times, parents don't believe them," says Maria.

Maria is grateful for the support her family received from the non-profit. Therapy and art have helped her daughter continue to heal, even if the wounds will never fully fade.

Maria says, "It has been years since it happened but it will never leave your mind or your heart."

The person who abused Maria's daughter was sentenced to eight years in prison. They served four of those years.

In support of all survivors, Centro La Familia will be participating in National Denim Day Wednesday.

The campaign began after a rape conviction was overturned by the Italian Supreme Court because the victim was wearing tight jeans.

Everyone is encouraged to wear denim clothing - to help raise awareness - with a goal of preventing sexual violence.

For more information, click here.