It was great to see so many agencies and their dedicated representatives at Saturday’s Victims’ Rights Awareness Fair in De la Guerra Plaza (in recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week). They do heroic and important work for so many in our community — work that wouldn’t be possible without the generous Santa Barbarians who regularly donate their time and money to these agencies and their indispensable efforts. But as I talked with event participants, and waited for the surge in attendance that never materialized, I was left to wonder — is our generosity and philanthropy as a community enough?
Have our well-intentioned efforts unconsciously walled us off from recognizing the uncomfortable and sometimes ugly things that happen in our community? Have we unintentionally created an “us” and “them” dynamic? Should we instead be turning toward our neighbors who remain in the shadows and asking to hear their stories? Perhaps the next step is a venue that would offer opportunities to foster this connection.
As a therapist who specializes in trauma, I know how important it is for victims to speak out. But just as important – victims need to be heard. As difficult as it can be, listening to their stories is an opportunity for us to come to terms with a world in which these experiences occur and to accept this as part of all of our narratives. In doing so, we lessen our collective fear and powerlessness, and our isolation from one another.
As Lourdes Negrete from the District Attorney’s Office said to me Saturday, victimization is “a community problem … everyone should take it personally.” We have built a great infrastructure, how can we, as individuals, better listen to and embrace the stories of our neighbors?