Illuminating a Path Toward Safety

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Volunteers held candles during the Full Moon Walk to honor survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault, as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Photos by  Tiffannie Nguyen.
Volunteers held candles during the Full Moon Walk to honor survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault, as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Photos by Tiffannie Nguyen.

When the full moon emerged last Saturday, the Santa Cruz City Hall courtyard was illuminated by candlelight and the smiles of community members who gathered to honor every person’s right to feel safe.

Recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women (CPVAW), in cooperation with the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center (WAWC) and Monarch Services, hosted its fourth annual Full Moon Walk. The event consisted of a walk through downtown Santa Cruz and a candlelight vigil under the light of a full moon.

“We [wanted] to have a walk because there were a lot of cases of sexual assault and violence against women in parking lots in the city,” said Santa Cruz CPVAW coordinator Kathy Agnone. “The whole idea — and this sounds so Santa Cruz — is that under nature’s light we bring our light to dispel the darkness of domestic violence and violence against women.”

Kathy Agnone, the coordinator for the Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, addresses the event’s attendees.
Kathy Agnone, the coordinator for the Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, addresses the event’s attendees.

With two dozen people of all genders and races in attendance, the group carried a powerful energy and message that transcended differences in identity and even age. As the group began its march down Pacific Avenue, a group of young women arrived, representing the Soquel High School Feminist Club.

WAWC representative Callie Jones said the WAWC also helps those who come from all sides of a sexual assault or domestic violence situation.

“We have a support group for men down at Rountree [Medium Facility Jail] in Watsonville to support abusers,” Jones said. “As significant and necessary as it is to support survivors, it’s important to get to the root.”

Jones said the social stigma behind domestic violence makes it difficult to speak out against situations of violence and assault. She said the symbolic significance of light in the event, both from candles and the moon, is an opposition to the symbolic darkness of domestic violence.

“[The Full Moon Walk’s] connection to the full moon and the candlelight is really about putting [domestic violence] out there as public health concerns,” Jones said. “Domestic violence affects people of all nationalities, races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations and other identities. It really isn’t a private family matter — it is a public community matter. We want to make it a normalized conversation.”

The WAWC offers survivors a 24-hour domestic violence hotline and an emergency interim shelter. When the scope of violence against women goes outside of the home, Monarch Services offers survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking resources they may not receive elsewhere in the community. Monarch Services is home to the only rape crisis center in Santa Cruz County.

“We have support groups for women and children. They can get together with other survivors and understand that their reactions are normal,” said Monarch Services community education coordinator Ruben Garcia.

Monarch also conducts sexual assault responses, during which managers offer support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence every step of the way.

“We go to a hospital so they can get DNA, analyze clothing and collect any evidence they can,” Garcia said. “We talk to the police and help the victim be comfortable so they’re not pressured into reporting or doing something they don’t want to do.”

Violence against women is a daily reality, both in and out of the local community. Events such as the Full Moon Walk bring communities together and foster solidarity with survivors. Anna Brooks, an attendee of the event and a UC Santa Cruz alumna, said the Full Moon Walk represents for her a future in which she can stroll nighttime sidewalks without fear.

  “I live and hope for a time when we can feel comfortable and safe walking at night,” Brooks said. “I appreciate that this annual event creates a safe place and [raises] awareness.”