Growing up in Guatemala in a home with domestic violence, Riviera resident Ericka Gonzalez vowed at the age of 8 that she would do something about it. And she has.

In fact, Ericka has done so much to help domestic violence victims that she was honored recently as Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women.

Ericka’s work with domestic abuse victims began decades ago when she began volunteering at the Rainbow Services in San Pedro, a domestic violence agency that aims to keep families safe. That led to volunteering at the Women’s Shelter of Long Beach. In 2002, she began volunteer work at the Redondo Beach Police Department Domestic Violence Victims Advocacy Program, where she now serves as coordinator.

“Our goal is to support domestic violence victims in every way we can, including helping them find shelter, providing them with counseling services and even accompanying them to court,” said Ericka. “It’s very rewarding and a privilege to help others.”

Ericka recalled a recent case of a mother who had a restraining order against her abusive husband. While she was away from home, the man cleaned out her house taking everything in it. Thanks to the donations of volunteers, within days the woman once again had furniture, groceries and clothes for her and her child. She also had a supportive network of help to keep her out of the cycle of future domestic violence.

“We have a very supportive community and government here in the South Bay,” said Ericka.

“People want to help, so it’s just a matter of reaching out and letting victims know we’re here for them when they need us.”

Ericka, her husband, David, and their two children, David and Ninabella, have lived in the Riviera for 18 years, and plan to call this area their lifelong home.

The Redondo Beach Police Department Domestic Violence Victims Advocacy Program offers a team of volunteers who are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Specially trained volunteers are able to quickly offer support to victims and to educate them about the cycle of violence.  A candlelight vigil to raise awareness about the fight against domestic violence will be held October 22 at 6:30pm at the Redondo Beach Civic Center in honor of October’s domestic violence awareness month.  To reach the program, call 310-379-2477, ext 7-3.