Sweet Event Held for a good cause “ Chocolate de Vine benefit held for Rape crisis center held in Carpenteria

SONIA FERNANDEZ, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT

November 8, 2009 8:22 AM

Above, Jean Micheal Carre of Chocolats du Cali Bressan is pictured standing next to his chocolate and brown sugar creation of West Beach at “Chocolate de Vine,” a benefit for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. Below, Renaud Gonthier of Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro displays his Key Lime White Chocolate treats at the event. NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

Some of the South Coast’s top local vintners and chocolatiers got together Saturday night to lend some exotic flavors to “Chocolate de Vine,” a benefit for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center.

Held at Island View Nursery in Carpinteria, the annual event for SBRCC, featured the decadent pairings of wines and chocolates for the third year in a row.

“We wanted to do something different,” said Amanda Beck SBRCC board member, of the unusual, yet cozy venue. Nestled among the succulents, orchids and other exotic flora were booths featuring chocolate creations like the White and Dark Chocolate Decadence with Blueberry Compote, Pear Confit and Raspberry Coulis from Bacara Resort & Spa; a beach-themed chocolate confection from Chocolats du CaliBressan, and several others. Paired with the chocolate were wines from local vintners like Curtis Winery, Summerland Winery and Imagine Wine.

Entertainment came from the jazzy bossa nova from Hip Brazil. Local media personality and News-Press columnist Gabe Saglie emceed the event.

Beneath the festive occasion, however, was a serious cause — a benefit for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center.

For over 35 years the nonprofit group has been serving the victims of rape and other forms of sexual assault, which because of their nature make it difficult and painful, sometimes even shameful for the victims to speak out.

“Every minute there’s a sexual assault going on,” said SBRCC Program Coordinator Yesenia Curiel, who added that one in three women will experience some kind of sexual abuse in their lifetime. Out of that statistic, only about one out of 10 women report the crime, making rape and sexual assaults a severely underreported crime.

For men, said Ms. Curiel, the statistics are harder to come by as the stigma of sexual abuse — whether it happened to them as children or just recently — tends to be greater, as it brings into question their personal power and their masculinity. Males who get abused tend to be minors, or elderly.

Another factor contributing to the importance of SBRCC’s existence is the underfunding of government run social services. As the county grapples with a negative budget because of the recession, added to the ongoing mental health services woes, more people with complaints of sexual battery and abuse are being referred to SBRCC. All the more reason to maintain funding for the eight full-time staff members who run round-the-clock services which are denied to no one for reason of cost, Ms. Curiel said. So far, none of the staff has had to be cut because of funding issues, but like for many local nonprofit organizations, every fundraiser is crucial.

Political differences notwithstanding, even California Assembly hopefuls Das Williams and Susan Jordan, opponents who attended the evening’s festivities, agreed in their support of the SBRCC.

“Rape is a crime of violence,” Ms. Jordan said. “And so many women, men and children who are affected by this crime don’t come forward, because they’re afraid. They need all the support they can get.”

“No one who undergoes this kind of tragedy needs to do this alone,” said Mr. Williams. “The kind of support that the Rape Crisis Center gives is unparalleled and we need to support that as a community.”

Starting from the call for help, the Rape Crisis Center puts together an action plan that makes the victim feel safe enough to speak out, pursue charges and put their life back together, said Ms. Curiel. And, she added, the trauma can have happened at any time in the victim’s past, or be re-triggered by any circumstance in the present that makes the victim feel helpless and violated.

“We had a couple calls at the beginning of the recession that were triggered by people losing their homes to foreclosure,” she said.

The evening included a competition of the chocolatiers, judged by both the people in attendance and official judges Jason Vishnefske, master chocolatier and owner of Santa Barbara Chocolate, Maya Schoop-Rutten, owner of Chocolate Maya and local writer, teacher and baker Nancy Oster.

Sponsors of the event were many. Among them were organizations like Easy Lift Transportation, Hutton Foundation, Montecito Bank & Trust, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, The Territory Ahead and Venoco, Inc.
e-mail: news@newspress.com

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