SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – They call her Fearless Faith.
Those who know the 11-year-old San Bernardino resident and the struggles she endured as a victim of domestic violence immediately point to her courage and willingness to help others.
“Faith is such a remarkable young lady whose story of strength and perseverance will no doubt inspire others to break the cycle of domestic violence,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “Last week, I had the chance to meet her, and the fact that she wants to be an advocate for other children is something we don’t see very often.”
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month which takes place every year in October, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office partnered with San Bernardino-based Option House, Inc. and Project Fighting Chance to release the following Public Service Announcement (PSA) based on Faith’s story:
The 2-minute PSA highlights Faith’s story of survival and her desire to be an advocate for other children her age who are witness to domestic violence.
To be a certified advocate, the State of California requires a 40-hour training certification course for all Domestic Violence Advocates, as mandated in Penal Code section 1203.098. The goal of the training is to educate future advocates on the history of domestic violence and strategies to help survivors of abusive relationships.
“I want to be an advocate to teach little kids that they have a voice,” said Faith. “I want to tell them it’s okay to speak up and tell someone what they are going through. I want to be an official advocate.”
Faith will begin her 40-hour Domestic Violence Advocacy training through Option House, Inc. next month and it will entail a child component which will allow her to be an advocate for her peers under the supervision of a certified adult.
“For children, the fear they live with is more than fear of injury or death,” said Heather Stevning, Executive Director of Option House, Inc. “They fear the destruction of their family - their world. Children may experience feelings of shame, guilt, and divided loyalties to parents making it unlikely that they will disclose the violence to others.”
Stevning added that while there has been a focus on the causes of domestic violence and a push to stop it from happening, there has been much less discussion about how children like Faith are impacted by domestic violence.
The PSA also showcases Faith’s recent enrollment in a local boxing program designed to empower victims. The program, Project Fighting Chance, is a Youth Mentoring Life Skills Program run by San Bernardino youth boxing founder Ian Franklin.
“I hope Faith gains confidence, releases stress and any unaddressed anger,” said Franklin. “Most importantly, I hope she develops positive self-esteem.”
The PSA ends with a final call to action: If you or someone you know needs help, please call Option House, Inc. at (909) 381-3471 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
In 2016, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed 3,150 domestic violence-related cases. During this same period, the District Attorney’s Bureau of Victim Services assisted 728 domestic violence victims: 120 of those victims were assisted with relocation, 10 with emergency shelter, 280 with emergency assistance, and 116 were advised on how to get a civil restraining order.
“Many of these cases involved children, just like Faith, who witnessed horrible crimes committed against their loved ones,” said Ramos. “I have said it over and over, we will hold the guilty accountable, but in doing so, we need to also take into consideration the young victims who are left behind, our children. Through this PSA and our community partnerships, we can intervene early and break any future cycles of domestic violence or at-risk behavior.”
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has partnered with several community agencies to better serve victims of domestic violence. Please share the PSA and the following information: http://www.sbcountyda.org/HelpingVictims/DomesticViolenceShelters.aspx