Judge Gary Medvigy of Sonoma County recently made a decision to overturn a jury?s verdict of guilty of assault with the intent to commit a sex crime during a burglary, replacing it with the lesser charge of guilty of residential burglary. This effectively removed sexual assault from the equation. The perpetrator of this crime, if Medvigy?s decision stands, may never have to register as a sex offender and his crime against his victims will essentially go unnoticed.

The judge may feel that the law ?is poorly drafted? and ?constitutionally may be overly broad,? but it is the law, and the result of his decision is harm to the victim.

Far too often sexual assaults go unreported. Oftentimes individuals do not report because they have seen how sexual assault victims continue to be victimized when the predator is either released from custody with a slap on the wrist, the crime is pled down or, as in this case, changed to something having nothing to do with sexual assault.

Unfortunately, Medvigy?s action can only reinforce such decisions. The victim is left to live with the impact of the sexual assault, without the support of our justice system. The fear, anxiety, isolation and extended trauma that face victims and their families will never fully be erased.

United Against Sexual Assault (UASA) of Sonoma County, would like to take this opportunity to speak out for victims and educate our community about sexual assault. Sexual assault refers to a continuum of behaviors that include rape, and also encompasses any unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature. Women, men, children and youth can be victims of sexual assault.

Sexual assault knows no boundaries in terms of age, gender or life situation. The perpetrator sees the victim, devises a plan and goes after the victim. UASA works with victims/survivors of sexual assault, their families and support groups and witnesses first-hand the trauma that the victim is left to live with after the assault. Fostering an understanding that the victim/survivor is not to blame is the first step in healing. Knowing that the perpetrator is held accountable is an important step in enabling the victim to move ahead with her/his life and learning to feel safe once again.

The victimization of women, men, children and youth must not be tolerated. As a community, and a society, we must stand up and speak out when we know that a wrong has occurred. We ask our community of Sonoma County to speak up for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and all crimes that leave a lasting imprint on the lives of victims.

This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is an opportunity for each of us to gain knowledge about sexual assault, how you can protect yourself and how you can make your community safe. No one should go through what the victims in Judge Medvigy?s recent case have gone through. No one should go through what victims of sexual assault and related violence go through in order to once again reclaim their lives.

Please join UASA ? Sonoma County?s rape crisis, prevention, education, counseling and intervention center ? in supporting victims who are survivors of sexual assault and related violence. As a community we can make a difference. Let us honor all victims of sexual assault today, International Denim Day, a day set aside to remember survivors.

Wear denim ? and let people know why you have chosen this day to become more involved. Let us make it very clear that the people of Sonoma County stand up for victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes, and that we honor them for their courage, for their dignity and for their survival. We will not allow Medvigy?s decision to deter us in any way from our mission of breaking the silence while we end the violence.

Christine Castillo is executive director of United Against Sexual Assault of Sonoma County (UASA).