Miss Napa County: Darkness to Light

Hazel with her sister titleholder, Miss Solano Arielle Sumilhig

Hazel with her sister titleholder, Miss Solano Arielle Sumilhig

Hi guys! My name is Hazel Payne and I am honored to have just been named Miss Napa County 2015. Many times people often think that us “pageant girls” have it all; the looks, the smarts, the seemingly “perfect life”. Many times though, that is not the case, and my life was anything but that growing up. I am writing this blog to give you insight on me, my life, and my mission for change.

The reason I started pageants is I fell in love with all you could do as a title holder. Your crown truly is your microphone, and there is so much opportunity to make an impact. Fast forward to 2013, I was crowned Miss Vacaville 2013 (USA system). I knew that in my year I wanted to make the biggest impact I absolutely could, I would stand behind my platform and spark the conversation that has been long brushed under the rug.

IMG_0042My platform is Darkness to Light: End Child Sexual Abuse. This platform hits home to me because I am a sexual abuse survivor. I can remember saying to myself at as early as six years old that one day someone would know my secret. I kept that secret until I was 18 years old (I am now 22). I knew I wanted to make this my platform because I wanted someone to hear my story and find the inspiration to speak up and tell someone.

So there I was lying in my bed one night and the idea came to me: I would create change. I would start a petition. Last February, I had started a petition on change.org that was directed towards Vacaville's city council. My intentions were for the council to require any organization that works with kids to have sexual abuse prevention training among their staff and volunteers. The petition gained a rapid 200+ signatures in just under a couple weeks. The movement got the local media attention, and CBS 13 News, News 10, The Daily Republic, Vacaville Reporter; Vacaville Magazine etc. all had coverage on it. Fast forward a couple months, and I had the leaders within Solano County at my door. People from Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, Superintendent of Schools, Teachers, Counselors, Therapists, Mayors, Councilmen members, etc. all wanting to know more about what I was trying to do, and how they could help with change. So, the idea grew from a local city push, to a county wide want quite quickly. In August of 2014 I was finally at a place where I could present to the county of Solano about the mission. I spoke to about 100 leaders of Solano County on the training I hoped to soon adopt within these youth organizations. I was even featured in PublicCEO.com about what I was trying to do in Solano County.

I am what is called a Certified Facilitator (the first one in Northern California at that) for the organization called, Darkness to Light –End Child Sexual Abuse. (Fun fact: Former Miss America, Mallory Hagan also supports this organization as well) I receive no compensation for it, but rather, I am facilitator because I find it completely necessary to educate other adults on how to protect our children. Darkness to Light is who I completely support, and encourage receiving training from. Their curriculum is short (about two hours), to the point and as someone personally tied to the subject, truly gives an accurate depiction of the effects such crime has on the victim. But you leave feeling inspired, and empowered to use the knowledge you just gained to help end this crime in your work area and personal lives. My role as a facilitator is I am able to personally come and train others as Stewards of Children, and provide you the education on how to recognize, react and respond responsibly to child sexual abuse, and give them the tools to help prevent it. The sad statistic is 1 in 10 kids (reported cases) will experience this horrible crime before they are 18. And unfortunately, no town is exception to this. Some of you might be personally tied to this matter in some way as well. But by being proactive, my hope is to bring that statistic down.

Since last February, I have helped to train several organizations and more will join them soon. To me it is not about the crown, the sash, or getting to wave in a parade, it's about the impact you make. I do this with or without a crown on my head, and I know I will fight for this as long as there is someone needing hope. The plan is to adopt a law that would require such education in youth organizations and places. It is in the works as I have several state officials wanting to help support it. No child should ever have to live in a life of fear. I know this isn't the conversation people want to hear, but it is one that we need to hear. It's time to have a change in policy. This change would be an incredible step for not only our state, but this country. I do it for the little girl asking herself right now, “why me”. I do it for those who cannot find inspiration in themselves. “One day I want someone to look at me and say, because of you I didn't give up”.