Despite the weather, locals continued to raise awareness of sexual assault and child abuse at Lassen Family Services' Walk A Mile event at the Lassen County Fairgrounds. Photos by Makenzie Davis

Lassen Family Services’ Walk A Mile event raises awareness

It was a cold, windy day with a threat of rain, but the community continued to help raise awareness of sexual assault and child abuse.

The annual Lassen Family Services Walk A Mile event, held Saturday, April 24, falls during the month of April and at the end of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The purpose of the Walk A Mile event is to inform the community of the prevalence of sexual assault and child abuse and to provide information on the support services offered in Lassen County. The $5 registration went directly to the Child Trauma Therapy program that provides therapy to children ages 3 to 18 who have gone through or witnessed traumatic events

“I want to recognize and say thank you to each individual that is here for making a difference in a child’s life and taking the time to walk with us,” LFS Executive Director Angela Reed said to the crowd.

Walk A Mile participants heard from various speakers during the Saturday, April 24 event.

Before participants embarked on the mile-long trek, several speakers shared information raising awareness about sexual assault and child abuse.

Elizabeth Darley provided the invocation and spoke on the importance of participating in walks like this to raise awareness and Susanville Mayor Mendy Schuster read the proclamation from the Susanville City Council.

Others shared information on what the community can do to help.

“Child abuse and neglect is not an inevitable thing. It’s absolutely preventable,” Tiffany Sherman, an investigating social worker with child and family services shared. “Focusing on the well being and strengthening of families before they come to our attention is key to prevention … That falls on all of us in the community.”

She shared that by lowering parental stress, children do better.

“By building trust within our community and showing authenticity, empathy and humility, in order to overcome what has become generational for many of these families, parents and children can become more resilient, because childhood lasts a lifetime,” Sherman said.

The annual Walk A Mile event drew participants to support a good cause.

Additionally, Heather Roney, now a legal advocate for other survivors, shared her own experience as a survivor of child abuse.

She detailed her childhood of abuse and assault from her stepfather. Eventually, she tried to tell others what was happening, she said, but when her step dad was arrested and put in jail, he made threats to harm her and her mother.

“So I recanted, as most children we see do.”

With the topic of abuse rarely talked about and without counseling, Roney was unable to break the cycle back then.

“It wasn’t until I was able to surround myself with positive, supportive, like-minded people to help me on my journey from victim to survivor that I was able to heal. I followed in my mother’s footsteps, and began working at Lassen Family Services. My past was no longer a skeleton that I hid in a closet. My past equipped me to be good at what I do today,” Roney said.

“I work hard to make sure that those who come through our doors have help that I did not.”

Moreover, prior to the walk, Peggy Vaquera and Eddie Bias presented Diamond View Middle School sixth grade teacher Jessica Solomon with the 2021 Empathy in Education Award. Carla Dollar was presented with the volunteer of the year award.

When the walk began, participants were greeted with colorful powder thrown in the air, decorating walkers as they left the fairgrounds.

There were also many booths from local organization and agencies supplying information.

Lassen Family Services has a 24 hour crisis line available. For local, call (530) 257-5004, or toll free at (888) 289-5004

“Here at Lassen Family Services, we are committed to ending abuse in our community through prevention, healing, advocacy, safety and education, and effective partnerships with local community and social service agencies that will support the survivors journey to empowerment,” Roney shared.

For more information about Lassen Family Services, call (530) 257-4599 or visit lassenfamilyservices.org.