Zoie Brown, a 19-year-old Santa Barbara resident, founded the online organization Victims Get Vocal as a network of resources and support for victims of sexual abuse.
Brown and her mother Kristin co-founded the site to provide a forum for survivors of abuse — including Zoie — to speak out about their experiences and hear the stories of others in similar situations. Three weeks ago, Brown began circulating a petition around the UCSB campus to have her case re-opened by the Santa Barbara District Attorney, as it was previously closed due to a lack of physical evidence.
According to Kristin Brown, Zoie’s case was a miscarriage of justice common with sexual abuse crimes.
“The Santa Barbara District Attorney said that they know and believe that Zoie’s dad molested her but won’t convict him because of the ‘lack of physical evidence,’” Kristin Brown said. “Yet this same DA used about $2 million to prove Michael Jackson was a child molester even though there was no evidence that he was.”
Brown’s petition reached its goal of 500 signatures last week and her goal has since been raised to 1,000.
Megan Stander, public relations representative for Victims Get Vocal, said the organization has taken a grassroots approach within the Isla Vista and campus community to gather support for their petition and ideas.
“We want to create a coalition of people to get involved in our cause,” Stander said. “Although one approach we use, which is going door-to-door, is a slower way to raise awareness, we want the students to be motivated and not lose faith in the justice system.”
Zoie Brown claims her adoptive father Orson Mozes sexually abused her from the ages of 11 to 14. In addition to Victims Get Vocal’s support forums, Brown regularly updates a blog detailing the recovery from her trauma.
According to Kristin Brown, the current justice system often allows sexually abusive individuals to continue to commit crimes.
“Cases like Zoie’s are not unusual,” Kristin Brown said. “An average child predator sexually abuses about 50 kids, and in extreme cases, more than 400. They just do not stop because the justice system does not pick these people up and put them behind bars.”
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, two-thirds of sexual abuses are committed by someone the victim knows personally and 60 percent of assaults are never reported to the police.
Brown said she understands the difficulty victims have with sharing their experiences, as she personally suffered for three years before reporting her abuse at the age of 14.
“Kids do not speak up even when asked; it is shameful for a child, but it is also that protecting children is not a high enough priority in our society,” Brown said. “It took me several years — even [with] my mother; even though she was nothing but there for me to get through it after our one-on-one talk. But I want to help people who do not want to come forward and [are] still scared to speak out. By reading my story and through the support forum, they will know that they are not alone.”
According to Kristin Brown, while the organization hopes to aid abuse victims, it is also focused on finding justice in Zoie’s personal case.
“Although we have many long-term goals, such as gaining recognition so this foundation can do much more, the short-term goal is to get this man charged,” Kristin Brown said. “The DA believes Zoie — Child Services has collaborative evidence, yet the justice system will not convict him. If they do not convict him, what chance does anybody who has been abused have?”
To sign the petition, log into www.change.org/petitions/help-zoie-find-justice. To read more about Zoie’s story, visit her blog at www.victimsgetvocal.com.