A good turnout of supporters for the Valley Crisis Center took part in the 10th annual Peace for Families march and community gathering in downtown Merced.
The march last Friday started out at Laura’s Fountain inside Applegate Park and ended with a fun celebration at the Civic Center.
“There’s no excuse for domestic abuse!” marchers cried out as they made their way down M Street.
A trail of purple ribbons tied to light posts guided the crowd towards their final destination. Drivers honked their horns and waved in support as they the marchers carried signs that read: “Hands Are Not For Hitting,” “Stop the Violence,” and “Hope!”
There were other signs too: Ones that shamed cat-calling, verbal abuse, and advocating for a respect for relationships and love.
As marchers made their way into Civic Center, they were greeted by vendors, booths, and a stage full of prizes. Chee Yang, the executive director of the Crisis Center, took the stage and welcomed everyone in.
“Can you believe it’s already been 10 years?” she asked the crowd. “This annual march is a reminder to our community that we need to keep working to end domestic violence in Merced County. As we march, we must take the journey toward peace for all families, step-by-step.”
Just this past year, Valley Crisis Center has served more than 560 families and survivors. The office is located at 1960 P St and is dedicated to providing hope, support, and recovery for past and present victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
“The impacts of domestic violence are not just on the one being abused — but on the entire family,” Merced Mayor Mike Murphy said as he took the stage. He encouraged victims to act on their situations and seek help with the resources that the center and community provides.
Merced County Supervisor Lee Lor also appeared at the event with a message for the community.
“Often times, domestic violence is something we cannot see,” she said. “It is something we feel, something we hear. You don’t have to have physical marks, you don’t have to have a bruise for it to be called domestic violence.”
The celebration also featured a speech from domestic abuse survivor Ernestine Sanchez of Merced. Sanchez escaped a year-long relationship of domestic abuse and sought the help of the Valley Crisis Center after her escape.
“The day after I fled, I called them to get a restraining order against him,” she said. “They were so welcoming. I feel empowered and courageous now, like I found my purpose to help others who have gone through abuse and domestic violence.”
She was presented with flowers and a warm purple blanket as the crowd applauded her story of survival.
For more information on Merced’s Valley Crisis Center, you can visit them at 1960 P Street, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or give them a call at (209) 725-7900.