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Justice for loved ones: Survivors Speak program helps victims unpack trauma and heal

STOCKTON — Jessica Salcedo was a day from turning 25 when she was found dead at a vehicle repair shop in south Stockton.

On July 2, 2016, the mother of two had made plans to meet someone about some money that was owed. She never returned home. Police found her body the next day.

That is all Salcedo’s mother, Beatriz Barajas, knows about the death of her daughter.

“We’re all here today to ask for justice for our loved ones,” she said in Spanish on Thursday afternoon during the Survivors Speak Stockton: Breaking Silence program sponsored by the Stockton Police Department and the Office of Violence Prevention.

Stockton’s Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, which is affiliated with Californians for Safety and Justice, created this space for victims of all background to share their story from “healing to action,” said Tashante McCoy-Ham, who coordinated the event.

These conversations have been missing, she said. Communities have focused on restoration, rehabilitation and building trust, but not on healing. The more that society listens to survivors and allows them to speak to policy, the more things will change, she added.

Thursday’s forum in Stockton was part of a monthlong series of similar events in Los Angeles and Sacramento that is culminating with the Survivors Speak gathering in Sacramento on Tuesday. Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones and Mayor Michael Tubbs, who briefly spoke at Thursday’s event, are expected to attend the gathering.

“It’s really about giving a space for communities to come together and unpack their own trauma and heal,” said Anna Cho Fenley, director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

She said the issue of public safety should focus on prevention and trauma recovery instead of more prisons and jails.

McCoy-Ham said some people have experienced so many traumas at a young age that it is no wonder they end up in the situation they are in. They grow up to be the abusers, the murderers, the molesters because the trauma they suffered as children was not acknowledged, she said.

Among the women and men present Thursday were the mothers of people killed by police officers, relatives of homicide victims, formerly incarcerated individuals, and rape and domestic violence survivors.

Jessica Sewell, mother of Juwan Small, who was fatally shot on Dec. 14, 2015, a day before his 18th birthday, said she was buying her son a birthday card when she got news of a shooting near her home. At the moment, she didn’t know the victim had been her child.

“I don’t think the same, I don’t breathe the same,” she said. “I will never be the same.”

Since his death, Sewell said she has moved from playing the victim to becoming a survivor. Her focus now, she said, is giving back to the community in the name of her son.

McCoy-Ham said Stockton’s healing will continue beyond just this recent event.

“This,” McCoy-Ham said, “is the beginning.”

Almendra Carpizo
The Stockton Record

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