Goleta, Calif. – In response to widely shared social media posts, the Sheriff’s Office has thoroughly followed-up on the alleged incidents and are partnering with Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) to share information about survivor response, bystander intervention and STESA services. Yesterday, the Sheriff’s Office became aware of social media posts that recount two experiences at the Target store in Goleta. One incident describes a victim being followed in the parking lot and then being boxed in by two vehicles, and another incident describes a zip tie being left on the windshield of a vehicle, a tactic that has been rumored to be linked to human trafficking.
The Sheriff’s Office proactively reached out to both of the social media accounts that reported these incidents, followed-up with Target for review of surveillance footage, searched our reporting databases, and checked with neighboring jurisdictions for matching reports. We have had contact with one of the social media account owners and are hoping to hear back from the second. We were unable to corroborate either of the incidents. Additionally, our Human Trafficking detectives have confirmed that the claim that zip ties are being used to flag targets for human trafficking is unsubstantiated.
While we continue to monitor for similar threats and encourage survivors to contact us directly, we have reached out to STESA to share this opportunity to address public concerns. Bianca Orozco, a Community Education Coordinator has asked that we share the following information about survivor response, bystander intervention, and STESA services.
Whatever decision a survivor makes to keep themselves safe during their assault is valid. In one of the posts, the person trusted her intuition, got into her car, and used her resources to call for help. There is also no “right” way for a survivor to respond to an assault. Survivors may not feel ready to seek services or report to law enforcement right away. Survivors may choose to seek services, but never report to law enforcement. A survivor decides what their needs are after an assault and we must respect and support their choices.
We all play a role in preventing sexual assault in our community. Orozco said, “We have the ability to intervene in situations of sexual assault, if we feel safe doing so. One can keep a safe distance, but ask someone who is being targeted if they’re okay.” Active bystander intervention includes stepping in and addressing behaviors or statements before sexual assault happens. Orozco shared that one can be a bystander in day to day interactions, for instance, witnessing sexual harassing comments directed at someone at work or on the street. We can choose to intervene by challenging the behavior directly when it is safe to do so; creating a distraction away from the behavior to de-escalate the situation; or delegating by bringing in a third party to act against the behavior. In this case, bystanders who witnessed the person being followed or her flashing car lights and honking had different intervention options: directly confront the perpetrator; cause a distraction by interacting with the person or perpetrator; or calling 911 to intervene.
Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) offers support services to survivors of sexual assault and significant others. This includes people who have not directly experienced sexual assault but still want to process with an advocate about the recent news. Orozco said, “We are happy to speak with anyone who has concerns about their safety. We offer confidential services which include a 24-Hour hotline, legal and medical advocacy and accompaniment, and counseling. Information discussed will not be shared with other entities.” If you need support and would like to speak with a STESA advocate or have any questions about services, please call the STESA 24-hour hotline at (805) 564-3696.