Monthly Archives June 2024

Top Five “Words of Wisdom” From Advocate and Survivor Kevin McNeil 

Compiled by Amanda Makrogianis Mickelsen
Marketing Project Manager and Copywriter

Societal norms dictate that men are supposed to ‘be strong’ and not show much emotion outside of anger. This June, during Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we are challenging that norm and showing love and support to our male-identifying fathers, brothers, nephews, cousins, and friends who may be hurting and in need of healing.  

In honor of men’s health and wellbeing, we share the inspiring story of Kevin McNeil. A survivor of childhood sexual assault, Kevin journeyed from the depths of depression and addiction to a phenomenal rise as a renowned speaker, accomplished author, and dedicated survivor advocate. Maryam Jordan, the head of Mosaic Georgia’s Professional Education & Training Services sat down with Kevin last year to discuss his extraordinary journey. 

Outlined below are some thought-provoking takeaways from their talk:

Coping with Trauma Individually and Collectively 

In describing his own personal journey of coming to terms with the violent sexual assault in his past, Kevin shares how the mind copes with traumatic events in an effort to survive. 

“I became another person. I left that [abused] little boy on the bleachers. But I acted out a lot. This new person was very aggressive, very angry. However, because people around me weren’t informed about how trauma worked, I was judged a lot as a bad kid.”   


As a police officer, Kevin began to look at the different types of violence he was seeing daily and started to look for answers and identify patterns.  

“I had a question for myself – why is there so much violence? I became a detective and I started seeing the origins of violence come from traumatized children.”

Everybody was talking about trauma in the classrooms and courtrooms but no one was talking about it in their living rooms.”  

Kevin goes on to discuss the importance of trauma-informed education–for parents, teachers, caretakers, coaches, law enforcement–anyone who is providing guidance to our children. A much greater understanding is necessary around trauma and how it is masked through various behaviors. 

Recognizing this need shaped Kevin, and eventually drove him to motivate and transform others as founder and CEO of The Twelve Project, This vital nonprofit provides a safe haven for families and children, and provides crucial resources and education on abuse and the effects of trauma.  

As a former Special Victim’s detective, Kevin educates first responders on how trauma affects individuals and victims. He also advocates for legislation and would like to see mandatory training for organizations and individuals who work with children, like daycare centers and churches.   

“Education is a big part of my healing journey”.

Shifting Away from Trauma as the Enemy  

The Brain Knows Best

Ending the Blame Game 

Victim blaming is a part of our culture and many people do not recognize they are participating in and perpetuating it. Kevin reminds us to take note of our thoughts and our words if we are ever dealing with a friend or family member who is disclosing abuse.  

“When it comes to victims they are actually their worst critic …when people victim-blame and question…why didn’t you tell, why didn’t you fight…Victims have already struggled with those questions and when someone who doesn’t understand trauma comes back at them with those same questions that’s where that shame comes from…now they really feel bad…because I felt bad for being a victim but now because you’ve asked me these questions I feel bad because I didn’t do those things that you said I should have done.”

For those who feel called to know more and to advocate, Mosaic Georgia’s Executive Director Marina Sampanes Peed recently explored the topic of victim blaming and its harms; she offers sound advice on how to be an ally to someone who discloses abuse. 

From Survival to Transformation 

“You can’t love what you judge.” 

One of the most awe-inspiring aspects of Kevin’s story is the personal awakening he experienced that eventually led him to seek healing. Throughout his childhood years to early adulthood, he gravitated to the safety of group dynamics–football teams, the military, and later the police force, to help feel a sense of relevance and validation. Performance became my method of existing in the world. I tried to perform my way into acceptance which a lot of trauma victims try to do”. Kevin numbed the pain with alcohol and by becoming a workaholic; his relationships suffered.   

“I separated from my body, I saw my body and myself as two different entities. So my body became a tool that I used to get acceptance, whether that was through sports–some people do it through sex, some people medicate to make their bodies numb because they don’t like being themselves.”

One fateful day while working as a Special Victim’s detective, Kevin interviewed a young boy at a Child Advocacy Center who had been sexually abused by his uncle. After receiving compassionate and caring support, Kevin saw the young boy “come back to life” in front of his eyes. A deeply engrained but buried need to address his own past rose to the surface that day. But deep down inside I was crying and hurting; the little boy inside of me came back alive as well…That’s when I knew I needed help. It was because of that interview that I went to get therapy.” 

Kevin began to face the trauma from his past and delve into the prickly work of healing. “I had to learn to wrap my arms around that little boy. I had to learn to love him. Because I left him. I left him to survive. And that worked for me for a while.” But he recognized that it was finally time to heal. And heal he did. It is an ongoing process, but Kevin has gained an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom along the way. He now generously shares it all with victims, families, and first responders and is helping to create an environment where children (like him as a young boy) can get the trauma-informed support that they so desperately need.  

He is including men and boys in the conversation and helping to normalize the notion that people of all genders and gender identities should have the right to tell their stories, voice their pain, and heal their past trauma.  

We invite you to listen to the full, captivating personal story that took Kevin from a place of suffering to a life of vitality.


Mosaic Georgia is a Sexual Assault and Children’s Advocacy Center that provides crisis intervention and support services for victims of sexual abuse, assault and trafficking. Services include forensic medical exams, advocacy, forensic interviews, legal aid, counseling, education & training, and healing-oriented wellness programs. In Gwinnett County, clients come to the safe and private setting of Mosaic Georgia instead of the emergency room.

Our mission is to take action and guide change for the safety, health & justice of children and adults impacted by sexual violence.

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Someone’s Gotta Say It


This Month: Try the Walking on Sunshine Challenge

By Marina Sampanes Peed
Executive Director of Mosaic Georgia

This is for all the helpers out there.

Those who step up to support others, but struggle to act for their own well-being. If the concept of making time for yourself feels like an indulgence, or a sign of selfishness, please keep reading. The whispers to keep juggling it all, to stay constantly busy, to never be still (and chill), to measure your worth by your productivity – they are old tropes. Maybe your super-hero cape is tied too tight. Your compassion for others is legendary, but do you extend the same grace and kindness to yourself?

Research psychologist Kristin Neff, PhD, a pioneer in self-compassion, has shown the practice not only benefits your physical and mental health, it also increases your capacity to care and share. It’s a win-win. I encourage you to learn more at Self Compassion website.

Someone’s gotta say it, so let it be me: You are not your best when you are running on empty. You’re not fooling anyone – maybe just scaring them a bit.

The truth is, excelling in your endeavors – whether in work, volunteering, school, raising children or caring for senior relatives – requires you take periodic breaks and be as kind to yourself as you are to others. You’ve heard this before: You can’t drive on an empty tank/battery. You can’t bike far on deflated tires. You get the picture.

This is also true: You will not lose your compassion and commitment to helping by experiencing lightness and joy. Indeed, you NEED the lightness to be reminded WHY the work is worth doing.

You, dear reader, are cordially invited…

to join me in the Walking on Sunshine Challenge – a personal action plan to rediscover the lighter side of life to recharge your awesome self. This is supposed to be fun – no pressure to fit one more thing into your overflowing schedule. Instead, let’s focus on simple wonders, humor, and joy that lift us up rather than weigh us down.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

Embrace Nature:

  • Take a leisurely stroll through a nearby park or nature reserve without listening to an audiobook, podcast, or music. Gwinnett County has many parks with varied walking trails. See if you can visit all of them this summer!
  • Listen to the birds chirping (how many do you hear?), feel the sun warming your skin, and marvel at the beauty of the natural world.
  • Find the moon every night for 30 days.
  • My favorite: walk barefoot on the grass, lie down and gaze at the clouds.
  • Rainy day? Get out there, jump in a puddle, and laugh.

Humor Journal

  • Start with one week: make a note (yes write it down) of every amusing observation or experience. It could be something you over-hear at a restaurant, store, or restroom. You may even start thinking about things that make you giggle – write it down. After one week looking for it, you will find humor all around you. (I take pics of signs that amuse me). If you enjoy it, keep going. This can be a private hobby, or you can invite others in on your secret humor investigations.

Get Creative:

  • Write fortune cookie messages with friends,
  • Channel your inner Julia Child or Joe Randall or Ming Tsai or Jamie Oliver and prepare a dish in your kitchen as if you are on a cooking show. Set up a video cam or photo of an audience to keep you on task.
  • Go to an art museum, botanical gardens, or art galleries. Drink it in. One birthday I went to Atlanta Botanical Gardens by myself. I wandered as I pleased, stopped and smelled the roses, and used all my senses to be alone with beautiful nature and my thoughts. It was lovely.
  • Go listen to live music or a theatre show or comedy or spoken word show. Seeing other humans express themselves creatively is a gift.
  • Create a new playlist of music that makes you happy or lifts you out of your seat to jam.


  • Connect with friends you’ve been meaning to see. Go old school and make a phone call. Have your calendar ready. Make a date for coffee/tea, a bite to eat, a walk in the park.
  • Get a friend or two to do the Compassion Challenge with you. Each at their own pace. Some of these ideas you may choose to do together.
  • Host a Movie Night: Gather your friends or family (in person or virtual) for a movie marathon featuring your favorite comedies. Laughing together can be incredibly therapeutic, easing tension and fostering connection.

By making time for humor and joy, even in the midst of life’s challenges, you can replenish your mental and emotional reserves, returning to your tasks renewed and refreshed. So go ahead, give yourself permission to unplug and unwind. You deserve it. And everyone around you will appreciate it.

Let me know how you are Walking on Sunshine this month. Email me at with Walking on Sunshine in the subject line. There may be a prize for the experiences that really impress! Photos are bonus points.

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