Monthly Archives March 2023

Mayra Paradas: Life is a Dance

Women’s History Month Feature

An interview with Dance Teacher Mayra Paradas and Ashia Gallo, MPA, Wholeness Collective Coordinator

Mayra Paradas is the passionate, bi-lingual dance teacher and personal trainer who has brought new and fun ways to heal to Mosaic Georgia’s Wholeness Collective! For Womens’ History Month, we are proud to feature Mayra and capture her thoughts on womanhood, making a living while prioritizing your dreams, and advice she’d give to women and survivors of trauma.

What is one thing you love about being a woman?

How we can be nurturing and strong at the same time – We can be a mother and wife and build businesses and a home.

When did your interest in dance begin?

I always knew I wanted to try dance since I was a child, but we couldn’t afford it at the time. Then, in high school dance was offered as a main class I could take. Every day, for four years. For free!

My dance teacher at the time, Natalie Cruse, really encouraged my passion. An honor in our dance class was developing your own choreography to be performed at the annual show. I auditioned twice and didn’t make it. But the third time, during Senior Year, I was featured in a solo/trio dance that I created! After that, I was obsessed with dance and learning. I was more confident and would be dancing in the aisles at Walmart!

Did you end up choosing a fine arts school post-high school?

No because I hadn’t been studying dance long enough. I ended up with an academic and dance scholarship to Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama after high school. I joined the dance team, worked with a nonprofit dance studio, and started doing dance ministry for multiple churches. It was one of the best times in my life. I was offered dance captain at school but had to turn it down my second year. Life was changing…

Yes, please share about your experiences as a young wife and mom!

My husband Joel and I were set up for high school prom. Super awkward, but we liked each other and come from the same [Dominican] culture, so it worked. We married and had my daughter in my early 20s, while I started college the same year. My son came a couple of years later. It was VERY HARD to juggle everything. Creating a family and getting my education at the same time.

It was also hard for Joel to get used to it from a cultural perspective. He’d grown up around housewives. But my mom was a businesswoman – she had a hair salon in Birmingham and owns a restaurant in Buford, GA called Oregano Latin Bar and Grill that specializes in Colombian and Dominican food – so I never knew any different. If I could change anything, I’d maybe not do so much so young!

Can women have it all?

It depends on your expectations; you can get close, but too many dreams make it difficult. Putting effort into one area takes away from another. You cannot do everything perfectly. Stick to the top 3 things that mean the most to you: for me, its God, family, business.

What is one piece of advice you would give your daughter on how to navigate the world as a strong woman?

Follow your dreams with dignity and standards. Don’t be manipulated into saying yes to things you don’t want to do.

Where are things today with your family and your work?

My daughter is 10 and my son is 7 (sometimes I can’t believe I’ve been a mom for a decade!). I graduate from SCAD this Spring. LOL Schools (Live Online Learning) is my next venture. I want to create an online school that caters to children ages 4-17. My husband and I taught online while living in Punta Cana, DR during COVID, and really loved it! LOL will offer activity classes in language, art and design, school subjects, and life skills (cooking/organizing/etc.). It’ll be like Outschool.

How do you prioritize yourself so that you do not pour from an empty cup?

In order to give your best to others, give the best to yourself. Be an example. Eat, rest, and exercise well, then motivate others to do the same things. Lack of these things will cause unintentional mental health problems.

When is the last time you cried? Why?

Last big cry: Years ago, in the shower after a diagnosis with cancer (Mayra was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma while living in the DR. She had a golf-ball size tumor removed and is in remission). Last small cry: Feeling that the huge pressures and expectations that ruled my life were misunderstood.

What advice would you give to survivors of trauma?

There’s only so much you can do and what others can do to motivate you. You must find something bigger than yourself. Willpower only takes you so far. For me, it’s been my faith in Jesus.

To get in touch with Mayra and learn more about her dance and personal training offerings, email her at or contact her on Facebook at

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Someone’s Gotta Say It:

Sexual Abuse & Disabilities: Myths & Realities

Marina Headshot

By Marina Sampanes Peed, Executive Director of Mosaic Georgia

March is Disabilities Awareness Month, so it is a good time to dispel some myths and talk about how sexual abuse harms many of our most vulnerable kids, friends and neighbors. Disabilities affect a wide range of people with varying degrees of severity. Disabilities include impairments of the body structure/function, or mental function, that limit activities, restrict participation and ability to interact with the world. Not all disabilities are visible to the average observer.

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual harms can take many forms including unwanted touching, groping, sexual harassment, sexual coercion, sexual assault, and rape. Other “non-contact” forms include taking explicit images, showing pornography, exposing one’s genitals or asking them to expose themselves.

Invisible Victims & Hidden Harms

In 2022, approximately 15% of the clients we served at Mosaic Georgia had one or more disabilities. Our advocates provide support to the primary victim and non-offending caregivers or loved ones. Working beside survivors, families, law enforcement, and care providers, we see the surprise, fear, and bewilderment after a disclosure. Here are the most common misconceptions we hear, and the untold realities regarding them.

Myth #1: People with disabilities are not at risk for sexual abuse because they are not sexual beings nor sexually active.

Reality: People with disabilities have the same sexual desires and needs as non-disabled people.  Because this myth is prevalent, few children and youth with disabilities are taught about their own sexual development and health of their bodies. This information vacuum makes them more vulnerable to people who befriend (groom) them for abusive purposes.

Myth #2: Sexual abuse of people with disabilities is rare.

Reality: Most women with disabilities (83%) will be sexually assaulted in their lives. Half of girls who are deaf have been sexually assaulted compared to 25% of girls who are hearing; 54% of boys who are deaf have been sexually abused compared to 10% of boys who are hearing.

Myth #3: Any sex activity with a disabled person is rape because people with disabilities are not capable of giving consent.

Reality: Consent is a complex issue that depends on many factors, including the individual’s cognitive and communication abilities, understanding of the situation, and level of comfort and safety. While some may have difficulty with communication or decision-making, this does not mean that they are unable to consent to sexual activity. Just like everyone else, it is important to ensure that all parties involved in sexual activity are able to give informed and enthusiastic consent.

Myth #4: People with developmental disabilities are unreliable; they cannot communicate about sexual abuse or understand what is happening to them.

Reality:   Most can communicate about sexual abuse – either directly or indirectly. Some may communicate in nonverbal ways, such as through gestures, facial expressions, sign language or assistive technology. It is important for caregivers and advocates to be aware of these communication methods and to take them seriously. It is also important to recognize that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities may understand what is happening to them, even if they have difficulty communicating it.

Myth #5: People with disabilities are not attractive to sexual predators.

Reality: Sexual predators target vulnerable people. Because people with disabilities are often perceived as lacking agency and independence, they can be seen as easy targets for abuse. Issues such as social isolation, dependence on caregivers, lack of sexual health education, and limited resources/support make them more vulnerable to abuse.

Bonus Myth #6: People with disabilities cannot be sexual predators. 

Reality: People with disabilities can be both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. It is important to recognize that sexual abuse is a complex issue and can occur in any type of relationship, including between people with disabilities. The Justice Department found that people with intellectual disabilities are even more likely to be raped by someone they know. For women without disabilities, the rapist is a stranger 24 percent of the time, but for a woman with an intellectual disability it is less than 14 percent of the time. Furthermore, often it’s another person with a disability — at a group home, or a day program, or work — who commits the assault. Compiled data from 500 cases of suspected abuse in 2016 showed that 42 percent of the suspected offenders were themselves people with intellectual disabilities. Staff made up 14 percent of the suspects; relatives were 12 percent; and friends, 11 percent. (Shapiro, 2018) 

While so many people with disabilities experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime, only 3% of sexual abuses are ever reported.  This makes a case for increasing awareness of the vulnerabilities, how, when, and where abuses occur, and also develop prevention strategies.

Let us work to create a society that ensures everyone is able to live free from abuse and harm.


For more information:


Shapiro, Joseph (2018)
NPR, The Sexual Assault Epidemic No One Talks About

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Reclaiming Safety Through Counseling

Kendall Circle Headshot

By Kendall Wolz

In November 2022, Mosaic Georgia relaunched on-site counseling services for individuals and families who have experienced sexual violence. We are grateful to offer this service to continue the healing journey for those who seek care at Mosaic. Our unique, talented, and passionate staff provide individual, family, and group therapy.

Our team is ready to patiently and compassionately walk alongside individuals and families after the trauma of sexual violence. We truly understand the challenges this type of trauma brings and how it impacts lives daily.

Using trauma-focused interventions, we assist you in reclaiming safety, rebuilding health, and experiencing justice through healing.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Our staff utilizes models that we believe would be the best fit for each client. We do not have a “one size fits all” approach to therapy. Each of our therapists bring slightly different backgrounds and training which allows us the flexibility to match their skills with the client’s needs. All of our approaches are grounded in an understanding of how trauma impacts the whole person and the system to which they belong (family, friends, work, school, community, etc.). The therapeutic interventions seek not only to relieve the distressing symptoms a client experiences after trauma, but also to help them process the trauma so they can live free from the chains of trauma. Our philosophy is to meet each individual where they are in their healing journey and work closely with them to provide the necessary tools to reach their therapeutic goals.

Why Us?
We aren’t just here to help with symptom relief. We recognize that true healing requires a holistic approach. In addition to more traditional, clinical forms of therapy we work closely with our Wholeness Collective program to ensure clients have the opportunity to pursue nontraditional models of healing including trauma-informed yoga, restorative yoga, dance classes, and Finding Hope Support Groups.

Meet our Team
Kendall Wolz, LPC moved to Georgia and joined our staff in October 2022. Prior to joining Mosaic, she worked as the Center Director of a nonprofit organization in New Orleans that served individuals experiencing homelessness, struggling with addiction, and recovering from trafficking. She has her Masters of Arts in Counseling with a specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is currently working on her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. Kendall comes to Mosaic with first hand experience of what it is like to be a client at a Child Advocacy Center. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, Kendall is trained in both Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Kendall loves all things coffee and reading a good book.

Hagikah Birden is a licensed master social worker and therapist working towards clinical licensure. She joined Mosaic in October 2022 after moving to Georgia from the San Francisco Bay Area, California. She has a Masters in Special Education and a Masters of Social Welfare (MSW). Prior to becoming a therapist, she was a special education teacher working with teens and adolescents with cognitive, developmental and behavioral disabilities. Hagikah has worked as a social worker, advocate and educator in schools, criminal legal settings, and with survivors/victims of sexual assault in the Bay Area. Her experiences have significantly shaped her passion for and understanding of how exposure to violence and abuse can impact the individual, family, and community. She is excited to continue this work in the South.

Emily Felton is a Therapist/Counselor for Mosaic Georgia. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker in Georgia and is currently working on her LCSW. Prior to joining the team, Emily gained experience as a hospice/medical social worker and as a mental health therapist in the prison system. She is excited to continue her social work journey with us by providing therapy to children, families, groups, and individuals that have experienced trauma. Her areas of focus include: trauma, crisis intervention, addiction, life adjustment difficulties, parenting issues, anxiety, depression, and death and dying, grief and loss, and self-harm. Emily loves family time and traveling.

Who We Serve
We currently accept clients ages 8 years and older who have been impacted by sexual trauma. We offer individual, family, and group therapy. Appointments are scheduled Monday-Friday between 9 am and 5 pm with some evening availability until 8 pm.

To receive more information about our counseling services, please visit our counseling webpage.

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