Written by Abolish Slavery interns Jayda Shuavarnnasri and Anne Beck
IRVINE, CALIF.—Local victim services organizations and law enforcement came together to honor victims of all crimes in a candlelight vigil at Mason Regional Park in Irvine on April 24. Also at the vigil, the Orange County Board of Supervisors and O.C. Parks unveiled the site of the future Crime Victims’ Memorial.
April is sexual assault awareness month and along with educating the public about how to prevent sexual violence, several Orange County organizations banded together to pay tribute to the victims of crimes such as human trafficking, sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence. Several survivors and family members of those deceased shared their stories at the vigil to preserve the memory of lives lost as well as to help inform and bring awareness of these crimes. These painful stories illustrated the necessity to honor victims through a memorial.
Crime Survivors Inc., Get Safe, Human Options, Community Service Programs (CSP), Mothers Against Drunk Driving and O.C. Crime Stoppers were among the 14 groups and guest speakers at the vigil. Local politicians and law enforcement agencies like Irvine Police were also present and had booths set up in support of local victims of crime. They educated the community on various programs available to assist those in need, such as victims and potential victims.
The memorial site will be a place of comfort, hope and rest for all. It will also be a place for those affected by the aforementioned crimes to come to reflect and find peace.
“The memorial is going to be an important place for victims and families to go to for healing,” said Annette Menchaca, who attended the event to support her mother-in-law Stacey (full name withheld for privacy), a domestic violence survivor who spoke publicly at the vigil for the first time.
Todd Spitzer, Supervisor of Third District and host of the event, saw the park as the perfect memorial site with a serene view of the lake. Spitzer, a former California State Assembly Member, has dedicated his career to public service and the crime victims’ movement, and welcomes the entire community to take part in submitting designs for the memorial. Spitzer will be working with the community and with O.C. Parks Director Mark Denny to construct the site.
“The memorial will represent a place of peace,” said Monique (full name withheld for privacy), a victim of sexual assault.
With the help of CSP Inc., Jackson has been working on her personal health, wellness and recovery, with the desire to be a voice for those who she explains might be “too afraid, too ashamed, or can’t” share their stories of victimization.
Shyima (full name withheld for privacy) told her story where her parents sold her into human trafficking in Egypt where she was was forced to clean, cook and care for her perpetrators. After being rescued and placed in foster care, she began her healing process and makes efforts to educate the community.
“Keep your eyes open. This isn’t something that just happens internationally,” Shyima said. “It happens right here in Irvine.”
The event concluded with the vigil and a peaceful stroll around the lake in remembrance of the victims.