By Pamela Orebaugh

This year marks Center For A Non Violent Community’s 40th anniversary supporting survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and child abuse to renew their lives and restore their community.

In those 40 years our agency has seen a lot of amazing things. We have helped families grow and change, brought people safety and healing, advocated for stricter laws, and seen justice delivered.

But in those 40 years, we’ve also seen many terrible things. We’ve responded to sexual assaults, sheltered people who have been brutally beaten at the hands of loved ones, and seen the system fail the very people it’s meant to protect.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and it is our duty to bring attention to the enormity of this issue and its impact on Tuolumne County.

In September, a man was arrested on felony domestic violence charges. Sonora Police reported on Facebook he “choked” his girlfriend to the “point it popped blood vessels in her eye and left bruises on her neck.” However, this isn’t choking — it’s strangulation, which is one of the most lethal forms of partner violence as unconsciousness may occur within seconds and death within minutes.

This kind of violence is not uncommon in our community. In the past year, CNVC served 363 survivors of domestic violence — that’s more than one person a day considering holidays and weekends when we’re closed. On any given day, you can walk into our agency and see people with black eyes, split lips, and bruises in the shape of hands. But not all scars are visible, and you may never know who among us is being harmed by someone they love or should be able to trust.

But there is hope.

Tuolumne County is an incredibly generous community, and our agency and clients have been the recipient of many acts of kindness. There are many people and organizations willing to do the work to make our community safer and more resilient.

As CNVC celebrates 40 years of serving the community, we want to thank those who came before us – we stand on their shoulders to reach for equity. We continue the work of great women and men who blazed trails in times fraught with controversy and consequences.

To express our gratitude for the community’s continual support, CNVC is partnering with Women Helping Other Women (WHOW, a local non-profit supporting women) to host the “Empowering Women Strengthening Communities” event from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Sonora Opera Hall.

One of the reasons we’re hosting this event is to pay it forward to the community. When girls get the opportunities they deserve, amazing things start to happen: Poverty declines, economies grow, families get stronger, and babies are born healthier. The world, by all accounts, gets better.

We hope to inspire and encourage people to actively pursue their dreams and goals. The evening will feature guest speakers, local businesses, and community groups all representing the five essentials of well being: Identity/career, social, financial, physical and giving/community. The event is free. We invite everyone to explore options, be empowered, and find their voice.

CNVC provides confidential, anonymous support and emergency shelter, as well as prevention education in the community. CNVC’s office is at 19043-B Standard Road in Sonora. The agency’s office line is (209) 588-9305, and the 24- hour crisis line is (209) 533- 3401. The 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline numbers are (800) 799-SAFE (7233) and (800) 787-3224 (TTY).

Pamela Orebaugh is a project coordinator at Center For A Non Violent Community.