Monthly Archives June 2023

The Link Between “The Talk” and Kid’s Safety: Discussing Sex and Bodily Autonomy with Our Children

Kendall Circle Headshot

By Kendall Wolz
Mental Health and Wellness Manager at Mosaic Georgia

If I were to sit down with a random group of adults and ask the question, “What happened when you had THE TALK” with your parents or caregivers, many in the group would likely recoil and cringe with discomfort. Most of us probably have stories filled with awkwardness, distress, and anxiety. Parents likely had a similar reaction when they had the talk with their own children. On one hand, sexualized material infiltrates many aspects of our everyday lives with television shows, movies, advertisements, etc. On the other hand, the topic of sex is still taboo for many to talk about comfortably.  

It is vital that parents and caregivers begin talking to their children about their bodies and sex early and in an age-appropriate manner.  

Equipping children with accurate, scientific information about their bodies empowers them to respond appropriately to situations that may be harmful.  

How the Danger Shows Up

There is a story about a child attempting to tell her teacher she was being abused at home. The child had been taught that her vulva was called a cookie. She arrived at school one day and told her teacher that her grandfather had licked her cookie. The teacher readily replied, ‘you should go get another cookie when that happens’. No one knew this child was attempting to tell the teacher that her grandfather had licked her vulva. As a result, the abuse continued until the child could disclose, with more accuracy, the abuse she had experienced. This is an excellent example of the dangers of teaching children incorrect names for their body parts. 

From the ages of 8-13, I did not have the language to describe the abuse I endured. I did not know the boundaries of my body extended also to the father figure in my life – not just strangers, classmates, and non-family members. I was not familiar with what constituted abuse. I did not know that there was something I needed to keep telling until I was believed.

I did not know it was wrong.

It is imperative that we provide kids with adequate information so that they can recognize abusive behaviors. 

Being Okay with the Discomfort

Toddlers are naturally curious about the differences in physical bodies. And this may cause some uncomfortable conversations at the dinner table. It’s important to remember that toddlers do not feel shame about their bodies until adults in their life unknowingly respond in ways that create embarrassment or guilt.  

Below are some helpful tips and resources to help empower children with an understanding of their bodies.

Stay Calm and Neutral  

When my brother was a toddler, he was notorious for pulling his pants down and peeing outside. This is common with young children, and it is understandable that it might ‘freak parents out’, especially if company is over. A parent may respond by frantically telling the child to pull their pants up and to refrain from doing that again while friends are over. The child may be anxiously instructed to only pee in the bathroom with the door shut. While the information being conveyed is necessary and reasonable, the way it is communicated may unknowingly prompt shame, embarrassment and insecurity within the child. A healthy response would be to calmly approach the child and matter-of-factly state that when friends are over, we only pee in the bathroom. This mild, neutral tone does not create a sense of alarm. When a child feels alarm, they have difficulty listening to what we say and are more likely to only absorb the anxious energy put out by the parent. 


Eyes, Nose, Elbow, Arm, Penis, Vagina: They Are All Body Parts 

“Every single part of our body has an important job. All parts of our body are good. There are some parts of our body that we keep private.” This should be the focus of our conversations with children. As they grow and ask questions, our answers about the jobs of different body parts will expand and have more depth. We might even have to break out Google when a child asks about the job of the appendix. We can teach kids factually about their bodies. We do not need to assign a label of good or bad; however, we may assign a category of private.


It is important that we do teach children about privacy. When we are in public places, at a friend’s house, or even in places like the living room and kitchen, certain parts of the body should be covered. Many people explain private parts by what is covered by a swimsuit; for others, private parts may be extended. You will often have to remind children of what is private, but that should not be done in a shameful tone. It can simply be a reminder. 

A Helping Hand  

It’s a complex topic and the layers run deep especially because our children’s safety is at the forefront. Fortunately, there are many resources that can help us along.

Here are some excellent tips for having healthy conversations with children about sex.  

Lots of helpful advice can be found on the Birds & Bees Instagram account.


Kendall Wolz heads up the Mental Health and Wellness team that provides individual, family, and group therapy to those seeking care at Mosaic Georgia. As a survivor herself, she has a unique insight into the challenges of living with past trauma, how it impacts lives daily, and what the process of healing truly looks like. Her personal website, Brave Girl, Speak unpacks some of the complex issues that come along with being a survivor of sexual violence. Visit Kendall’s site to read more about her personal journey healing from trauma and peeling the layers to reclaim her true self.

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Someone’s Gotta Say It

Surviving Sexual Assault in the LGBTQ+ Community: Mosaic Georgia Extends a Warm Welcome, Support and Care

By Marina Sampanes Peed
Executive Director of Mosaic Georgia

June 2023

We know that sexual violence is as old as mankind. The expression of power and control over someone the perpetrator regards as their possession or less than fully human is universal. Rape is a tool of war – done to girls and women to insult the men in their group. People commit sexual assaults among all communities, irrespective of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or identity. The rapists use many means — force, fraud, coercion, and drugs/alcohol to complete their assaults.   

 Homophobia has existed for a long time. Today, only 7.2% of adults self-identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or something other than heterosexual. This month we’ll explore why LGBTQ+ people experience sexual violence at higher rates than the heterosexual, cis-gender populations.   


Prevalence of Sexual Harassment & Assault within the LGBTQ+ Community


Sexualized violence is almost expected among many LGBTQ+ individuals. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking, while 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience sexual violence during their lifetime. Transgender individuals also face higher rates, with half (50%) experiencing sexual assault at least once in their lives. Public and private harassment and threats are everyday occurrences for many.  

LGBTQ+ individuals face a higher risk of sexual violence due to a combination of societal factors, systemic discrimination, and specific vulnerabilities within the community.  

  • Stigma and Discrimination: LGBTQ+ individuals often experience stigma, discrimination, and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This marginalization can create an environment where perpetrators feel empowered to target and victimize LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Hate Crimes: Hate-motivated violence is a significant concern for the LGBTQ+ community. Hate crimes can involve sexual violence, and individuals within this community are often targeted based on their perceived or openly expressed sexual orientation or gender identity. Most of the perpetrators of rape and sodomy are heterosexual males. 
  • Lack of Legal Protections: In many regions, legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals are limited or absent, leaving them more vulnerable to sexual violence. The absence of comprehensive legal frameworks and protections can deter survivors from reporting incidents or seeking justice.
  • Increased Risk Factors: Some LGBTQ+ individuals may face additional risk factors that contribute to their vulnerability. For example, transgender individuals may experience higher rates of sexual violence due to transphobia and discrimination.

A Safe Resource for LGBTQ+ Survivors


Mosaic Georgia provides comprehensive support to survivors, including confidential advocacy support and medical forensic exams, commonly known as “sexual assault kits.”  Our center offers these medical forensic exams in a private and confidential setting. There are no fees associated with our services, ensuring that survivors receive the care they need without financial burden. 

These exams are available to all adults within 120 hours of the assault, regardless of their intention to report to law enforcement immediately. At Mosaic Georgia, we understand that survivors may have various reasons for not wanting to involve law enforcement right away, and we respect their choices. 

If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault and in need of support, please remember that Mosaic Georgia is here for you. Our services are confidential, compassionate, and free of charge. Reach out to us at 866-900-6019.  


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Kevin McNeil: Daring Men to Ditch the Mask

By Ashia Gallo
Wholeness Collective Coordinator at Mosaic Georgia

An interview with Child Advocate Kevin McNeil and Wholeness Collective Coordinator Ashia Gallo, MPA

Kevin McNeil wears many hats: former SVU detective, husband, author, businessowner, and motivational speaker and advocate against child abuse. Kevin is very open about his experiences of sexual abuse as a young man. His organization, The Twelve Project, aims to bridge lack of awareness around abuse with people’s desire to learn and to protect their children.

June is Men’s Health Month, which aims to encourage men to take charge of their overall health by implementing healthy living decisions. Kevin’s journey to healing his trauma and building a healthier view of his own masculinity made him the perfect Tesserae feature as Mosaic Georgia recognizes the unique struggles, coping mechanisms, and deadly silence of male trauma survivors.

What are some approaches you take to caring for your mental, physical, and spiritual health?

Truthfulness plays an important role for me. I avoid toxic positivity as a coping mechanism as opposed to facing how I feel. Acknowledging and honoring feelings first helps me to stay mentally healthy. Meditation, exercise, and isolation (with limits!) works well.

I encourage others to choose what works for them effectively. Everything doesn’t fit everybody. But expressing versus sitting with feelings is important. Feelings are a guide to wisdom.

Men should learn to be truthful with feelings and why they’re expressing them. It shouldn’t be to make others act differently – but to be real, and genuine. So much of our unhappiness comes from pretending. There’s a reason the Bible says, “the truth shall set you free”. Teach people to fall in love with your authenticity.

You speak openly about the “dark years” when you attempted to self-medicate and overwork to avoid addressing your own childhood abuse – how would you describe your mental health during that season?

I wasn’t even conscious of my actions or addictions. I used to cope with avoidance, loneliness, and inadequacy by grabbing something to drown it. Alcohol, sex, long work hours, etc. I wasn’t in a state of clarity. Only thing I felt was the dark side saying I wasn’t good enough. Then, more shame from using those unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Looking back, that’s how you learn! My dark side aided and guided me. If you avoid your pain, you’ll never meet your power. Don’t judge your dark places, embrace them. The trauma is still there sometimes. And the culture says men cannot be vulnerable about that.

When we are honest among one another, it becomes sacred space. I compared myself to Clark Kent, until I learned to kill the superhero.

What was the final straw that made you confront your childhood trauma?

My breaking point was watching a young boy tell his abuse story while I was a detective investigating his case. I realized I needed help. Children hold so much wisdom. We have it backwards – men can learn from boys.

According to the CDC, men make up 50% of the US population, but nearly 80% of deaths by suicide. We have heartbreaking pop culture examples, such as the death of beloved Stephen “tWitch” Boss from the Ellen Show late last year. What are your reactions to this?

Many men are very secretive, especially high profile men. Many times they don’t have people around them to say “you need help”. Suicide is an act of silence. We must be so honest it disrupts what it means to be a man in our society.

We work to create our lives to be seen a certain way. Then when we make it, and reality doesn’t match up, depression follows. We end up needing constant distractions, and cannot be free.

I was in football, the military, and became a detective to hide behind the uniforms and shields. We hide behind the titles and groups of men. The public image we’re expected to live up to is very frustrating. Life becomes a task. Suicide is the act, but the person has been killing themselves slowly by withdrawing, stopping doing what they love, etc.

Men don’t express how they feel. Even on the way out, many times they don’t express why they want to leave. They just know they can’t take all the emotions anymore. We express distress in subtle ways. And the culture isn’t trained to listen to men’s pain, so we miss opportunities to help them.

“Children don’t get traumatized because they get hurt. They get traumatized because they are alone with the hurt.” -Dr. Gabor Maté, Canadian physician and author.

Thoughts on men in therapy?

We treat therapy like an “option”. If we had more therapy offices than churches, we would see more positive change. It should be a mandatory requirement. Then again, I do understand that people who are forced to go won’t want to…

“Mental health” is becoming trendy and consumeristic. [As a society] we market things we don’t want to deal with. Even Men’s Health Awareness Month cannot compartmentalize these issues. Therapy allows us to go beyond awareness and into action.

We are also often too quick to treat what we should be listening to. We look for superficial answers and try to ‘fix’ things as opposed to ‘listening’. You can’t make things go away that you don’t fully understand. Therapy is an opportunity to confront the person you are and shape that.

What is the #1 message you’d like young men especially to know about dealing with emotions and traumatic experiences in their lives?

You are human before you are male. Maleness is a prescribed title. If they are not careful, they’ll live their lives out being something that they don’t have the capacity to upkeep. But being human is natural. Meaning is the currency in which you purchase your happiness.

To hear more about Kevin’s story, check out his Caring and Courageous interview on Mosaic Georgia’s Facebook page.

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