A young Vallejo mother, Kamille Gholson stepped up because she wants women to be more empowered in the face of domestic violence and sexual assault.

And alarmed at the high rate of dating violence among teens, 21-year-old Abigail Velasquez of Vacaville also volunteered.

The two young women are among nine of SafeQuest Solano’s newest domestic violence and sexual assault victim advocates, also called counselors.

Never before have so many young adults taken part in the 64-hour training sessions, SafeQuest Solano Executive Director Violet Barton said.

Their training puts them on the front lines providing emotional support, education, advocacy and crisis counseling, Barton said.

The volunteer work can be stressful and intense, particularly in handling calls on the 24-hour crisis hotlines, said one veteran SafeQuest counselor.

But Barton said it’s rewarding, and added it’s encouraging so many young adults want to help their peers.

“To have so many taking this up as their passion is very helpful to our community,” Barton said. “We need young men, too.”

Abuse is pervasive among women and men, Barton said, adding that nearly one of every four women and one of every six men are victims of sexual assault.

A Solano Community College student, Velasquez said she’s found young people are hiding abuse and don’t want to talk about their experiences.

Her goal is to start youth groups and talk to youth in schools to bring the problem out

Volunteer Danielle Bermudez said she wants every young woman to know the facts about the prevalence of abuse, and to empower themselves to fend off violence The young women have just begun their work where they will handle calls and visits with rape victims, battered women, plus work with hospitals and law enforcement reporting crimes.

The counselors also will assist with support groups, conduct public education campaigns, and help out at the emergency shelter.

After moving to Solano County from Monterey, volunteer Shayonna Bennett, also in her 20s,of Vallejo said she wanted to continue to help women following her volunteer work at a rape crisis center in that city.

Bennett said she survived abuse herself. The Solano Community College student said she wants women to take to heart that it is not their fault.

The volunteers will be doing a little bit of everything, SafeQuest counselor Deborah Davis said. She began volunteering following her retirement in Solano County Child Protective Services, but now works part time for the agency.

“It’s more intense now with the amount of violence in the relationships, and the relationship violence is now affecting our young people,” Davis said.

“It’s surprising that it’s taking place at such a young age and that could possibly be due to all the bullying in schools,” she added.

Women, aged 17 to 25, are the most prevalent victims of sexual sexual assault, but Barton and others said victims are often younger.

In schools, SafeQuest counselors encourage young people to speak up, and to report suspected abuse among friends, Davis said.

While she’s talked to many people in crisis, one particular woman still haunts Davis. This battered woman had been strangled and was spitting up blood, but still called her injuries minor.

The task in working with battered women and sexual assault victims can also be rewarding when victims become empowered to stand up for themselves and change their lives, Davis said.

As so many young people step up to help, Davis said it’s exciting they “have a heart for this type of work.

“There’s a great need for volunteers in this area. We want to see an end come to domestic violence, relationship violence and sexual assault. But before that can happen there has to be awareness in the community that this is taking place,” she said.

SafeQuest Solano will launch another volunteer training session at the end of September.

To learn more about SafeQuest volunteer opportunities call (707) 422-7345.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832.