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New Faces at Mosaic Georgia

Meet the newest additions to our team!

Liliana Jimenez
Bilingual Advocacy Specialist

Fun Fact: Liliana won the College of Health Sciences Outstanding Student award at her graduation.

Liliana graduated from Georgia College & State University with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in 2022. When she first started interning at Stepping Stone CAC she fell in love with this work and wanted to continue doing it after graduation. Liliana started as a full-time Bilingual Advocacy Specialist at Mosaic Georgia in May. Since then, she has also started as a Campus Outreach Specialist and works with surrounding campuses to spread awareness and implement on-campus education. Liliana is very excited to continue supporting victims of sexual assault.

Vanessa Zavaleta-Beltran
Client Experience Specialist

Fun Fact: Vanessa is the first one to graduate from her mom’s side of the family!

Vanessa graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s in criminal justice with a concentration in criminology and a minor in psychology in 2022. She spent time interning at Forever Family which is a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping at-risk youth. She began her journey at Mosaic Georgia in June 2022.

Ashia Gallo
Wholeness Collective Coordinator

Fun Fact: Ashia wrote scripts about serial killers for a true crime podcast on Spotify.

Ashia graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism in 2015. She then spent two years serving as a Health Outreach Volunteer in Peace Corps Mozambique from 2016-2018. Following her time abroad, Ashia moved to Vermont and earned a Master of Public Administration in 2020. She returned home to Georgia that same year and got involved in community activism in the areas of housing and racial equity during the pandemic. In 2021, she started as an outreach advocate for a SAC and fell in love with supporting and uplifting survivors of sexual assault. She joined Mosaic Georgia in June 2022 as the Wholeness Collective Coordinator, providing long-term, varied holistic healing modalities for trauma survivors. Ashia is passionate about creating spaces of safety, inclusion, and healing.

Fall 2022

Maria Herrera
Bilingual Forensic Interviewer and Advocate

Fun Fact: If you catch Maria watching TV it will most likely be The Office, and in her free time you might see her shooting some hoops.

From Atlanta, GA, Maria is of Mexican descent and is bilingual in Spanish and English. Maria received her bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from Georgia State University and is currently working on her Master’s in Public Administration at Kennesaw State University. Before Joining the Mosaic team, she worked at the Douglas County Task Force for almost three years as a Legal Services Coordinator, then as a Bilingual Forensic Interviewer. She joined Mosaic Georgia in March of 2022. Maria is passionate about serving her community and giving survivors a place to feel heard.

Teresa Bullard
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)

Fun Fact: Teresa met her husband on the school bus freshman year and they won cutest couple for senior superlatives. (Not sure it gets any sweeter than that.)

Teresa earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of South Florida in Tampa and worked in Mother Baby at NSH for 17 years. She first worked with Mosaic Georgia as an on call SANE and is now a full-time member of the staff. Teresa feels passionate about getting age-appropriate, sex positive inclusive sex education into our schools. She is very involved in her church’s outreach and advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals and participates with the Atlanta area Lutheran church to support the Atlanta Pride Parade and Festival.

Brian Darden
IT & Data Administrator

Fun Fact: Brian is running his first marathon later this year!

Brian was born and raised in and around Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2013 with a BA in Sociology and recently completed a Master of Public Administration at the University of North Georgia. Brian previously worked for FOCUS, a non-profit in Atlanta that serves families who have children with developmental disabilities and who are medically fragile. He now works as Mosaic Georgia’s IT and Data Administrator where he handles all things technical and database-related.

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Wholeness Collective – A Wellness Program Launch

 

By: Ashia Gallo, MPA

At Mosaic Georgia, we play a very sensitive role in the lives of the clients we support. From the first moment we meet them, the stakes are high. We are likely making introductions with a crime victim on the worst day of their lives. It’s a sacred responsibility that our team doesn’t take lightly.

At Mosaic Georgia, we specialize in crisis response for victims of sexual assault, child abuse, and more. A survivor may come to us after experiencing a sexual violation, calling the 24-hour crisis line mere hours or days after an incident. Next steps include an advocate helping the victim to ground, informing them of our services, and possibly making a same-day appointment at our confidential office location.

Once the victim arrives in person, we work to establish safety and trust among trained advocates, provide medical and law enforcement support, and determine the best plan for next steps – navigating difficult healing, and possibly legal, journeys.

The need to further develop these long-term responses became an issue that Mosaic Georgia leadership was desperate to solve. Our legal team helps victims through rigorous and otherwise expensive court proceedings to receive justice against an abuser. Our counseling team provides the one-on-one processing space that so many trauma survivors must undergo in order to move through their pain and not let the impacts of sexual or child abuse dominate their futures.

What isn’t often considered, though, is the isolation felt by these victims as they move through the healing process. The spiritual warfare, the identity crisis, the loss of self and safety at a soul level. The Wholeness Collective was born from these realities. When I signed on as program coordinator in Summer 2022, I was determined to combine my experiences as a victims’ advocate, activist, and international service worker to nurture the creation of this vision.

The goal of the Wholeness Collective was simple – design a trauma-informed healing and wellness program enhancing Mosaic Georgia’s mission by extending care to abuse survivors beyond our established crisis response period. To encourage and support long-term healing and wellness for those on the road back from trauma.

I spent the first several weeks creating a network of people who knew how to do just that. Reflecting its namesake, I aimed to build a “collective” healing community and knew that it couldn’t happen independently. I cold called and emailed countless community-serving nonprofits in Gwinnett County to spread the word about what we were creating. I also ensembled an Advisory Committee from those I talked to with diverse backgrounds, in terms of both identity and area of expertise. Committee members include local business owners, artists, mental health professionals, higher education administrators, and esteemed Mosaic Georgia staff members.

After months of building community interest, partner support, and referral processes at Mosaic Georgia and beyond, the Wholeness Collective launched in October 2022. The results were more than I could’ve ever imagined!

We held a total of 24 FREE Wholeness events and classes in the program’s first quarter, a variety of offerings: support groups for adult, female sexual assault survivors, music classes for children, sound healing and yoga classes, and a workshop for youth-serving professionals and parents about the ways we can protect our kids from abuse.

Nearly 70 participants registered for Wholeness events. Seven healing modality facilitators shared their gifts and led classes. Our program evaluation process (44% response rate) reflected success, revealing an increase in participants’ sense of agency, well-being, empowerment, and positive feelings about their healing journeys over an 8-week period.

We also received notable feedback we are excited to implement in 2023: creating more connection among participants and facilitators, offering culturally specific programming, and taking our events out of the office and into the community!

The sky is the limit for the future of the Wholeness Collective, and I am honored to lead the charge in Mosaic Georgia’s unique, holistic approach to victim services. Amongst our class facilitators, community stakeholders, victims, their families, and the Mosaic Georgia team, the message will remain the same: You are not alone.

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Marina’s Interview with CFNEG

 

Check out a Q & A with Mosaic Georgia Executive Director, Marina Peed. Marina talks about the services that Mosaic Georgia offers, the future of Mosaic Georgia and how we serve the community. The original article is linked HERE.

 

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Mosaic Georgia on the Radio

 

Mosaic Georgia leaders sat down with Business Radio X to talk through the services that we offer to the community and who it is that we serve. Check out the audio below and see the original post at THIS LINK.

 

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Why Awareness Matters

 

“I’ve learned throughout the years that no one wants to talk about what I do for a living. Getting folks energized about sexual violence prevention is not easy.”

By: Sara Cherry, Advocacy Manager

In my time as an Advocate for the past 5 years, Sexual Assault Awareness Month has been vastly different every year. I have experienced Aprils chock-full of every kind of event regarding sexual violence, and I have experienced Aprils where a few digital informational flyers and a Zoom presentation were the best I could hope for in terms of spreading awareness.

I began my career in the wake of the #MeToo Movement. People were tuned into the conversation. They were listening, learning. They were hearing what survivors and Advocates have always been saying: that sexual assault is a public health crisis. College campuses were eager to work with their local Sexual Assault Centers to implement sexual assault prevention & education programming, utilize Advocacy services for survivors, and draw from the knowledge of the experts in the field in order to make their communities safer.

As time passed, conversations pivoted away from sexual violence and the spotlight shifted. The global pandemic we’ve all been living through for the past two years is no small player here; our attention was held captive by another pressing health crisis. While #MeToo isn’t making nearly as many headlines as it was a few years ago, the impact it has made is worth noting. First of all, the conversation was finally being had. That’s no small feat when considering the topic!

I’ve learned throughout the years that no one wants to talk about what I do for a living. Getting folks energized about sexual violence prevention is not easy.

Additionally, measures were put in place in classrooms, workplaces, and maybe even in some unwritten cultural rulebooks about standing up to and preventing this type of violence. As a society, I believe we tolerate sexual assault a little less, we know our rights a little more, and those that experience this type of violence know that they are not alone. There will always be places like Mosaic Georgia that exist to help survivors through their experiences, and so long as we do we will do our part during Sexual Assault Awareness Month to educate and hopefully prevent future violence.

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People Helping People: A Daily Dose of Courage

 

Courage: the ability to undertake an overwhelming difficulty or pain despite the unavoidable presence of fear.

What’s a kid to do? We tell children to speak up for themselves and we want them to be quiet and respectful. Each family has its own norms and unspoken expectations. Regardless, it takes courage for a child to speak out when someone abuses her and threatens harm if she tells anyone. How should the community respond?

Courage meets compassion

The Gwinnett community has a multi-disciplinary team that operates with the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) model. Designed to be welcoming and convenient, all the steps after reporting take place in one private location, Mosaic Georgia: forensic interview, forensic medical assessment, and supportive services. Law enforcement and other necessary agencies go to Mosaic Georgia to collaborate on the investigation and issues resulting from the abuse/assault.

There are no fees, no co-pays, and no hospital waits. Our goal is to reduce trauma and stress through the reporting and investigative process and offer advocacy support during and after.

Building courage

People often ask, How can people get away with this? Coercion and silence are the primary tools used by people who physically and sexually abuse. Abusers know what is important to their victims and use that information to garner compliance. Abusers often diminish their victim in the eyes of others with comments about them being sneaky, lying, promiscuous, or attention-seeking to discredit her or him in the event the code of silence is broken. Many victims finally find their voice to protect others. “When I saw him with my little sister, I couldn’t stay silent…”

A family matter

Child abusers are opportunistic, choosing victims they can easily access and manipulate. The harm is compounded when the abuser is a family member, close friend, fellow student, or trusted teen or adult. The relationships are complex and intertwined. Feelings of genuine love or respect are conflicted with the confusion, pain, and shame the abusive behavior conjures. The weight of silence can lead to many forms of self-destructive behavior.

“I don’t want him to go to jail. I just want him to stop…”

You may assume that family members will form a protective shield around the person who gives voice to the abuse. Yet a common response is frustration, even anger toward the victim. Competing interests cause more damage to everyone. He may be the family breadwinner or have some social standing at work, church, school, or the ball field.

Private and public courage

What is not spoken is not acknowledged (don’t ask, don’t tell) and is allowed to continue. That lack of courage hurts everyone involved. It also explains why so many victims who report abuse later recant. The pressure to maintain the family’s status quo is too great for courage to sustain.

Ask any student in middle or high school and they can tell you about a video or snapchat that went viral. And find out how the victim was trolled and threatened as a result. The discourse focuses on the recipient of the assault, not on the behavior and decisions of the perpetrator. While some abusers feel shame after an assault, many do not believe they did anything wrong. “It just happened. She didn’t scream or anything.”

Our collective courage is challenged everyday. “I don’t want to get involved” for fear of backlash. That’s another way silence oppresses.

Courage + Support = Survivor

At Mosaic Georgia, we see courage every day in the people we serve. We help them put the pieces of their lives back together so their futures are brighter than yesterday. If this resonates, know that you are not alone.

We applaud your daily courage for living your life whether you have spoken your truth aloud. As Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” We are here for you, too.

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The Bigger Picture of Recovery: Working with CSEC Clients 

 

Spring is in the air and Mosaic Georgia is ready! The weather is gradually warming up. COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out to our friends and neighbors. It feels like there’s FINALLY light at the end of the tunnel!  While we’re looking forward to “springing” into this new season, we are also eager to engage in more work with a very important group of youth we serve: CSEC clients. Back in October we had the privilege of joining CACGA (Child Advocacy Centers of Georgia) in providing human trafficking intervention services (1-866-ENDHTGA).  But what happens next? What exactly is involved in working with CSEC clients?

When we welcome CSEC victims, we are receiving referrals directly from CACGA or law enforcement. This means that these youth either have experienced or are at high risk of experiencing trafficking or exploitation. Mosaic Georgia’s CSEC response includes a lot of communication and coordination with the youth’s non-offending parent/caregiver, law enforcement, and other state agencies involved with the youth.

Upon arrival, youth are met by our CSEC response team who create a calm environment and get to know the youth and explain why they are at Mosaic Georgia and the next steps. An assessment process begins to better understand the youth’s life circumstances. Our CSEC assessment  may include gathering history, a forensic interview, a medical exam, and advocacy to determine if the commercial sexual exploitation has occurred.

Mosaic Georgia coordinates a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) approach for each youth, based on their circumstances to ensure they don’t fall through the cracks. The MDT is comprised of government partners including law enforcement, and may include DFCS, juvenile court, Guardian Ad Litem, and Mosaic Georgia’s specialists in medical, counseling, legal, and advocacy. This collaborative approach improves law enforcement investigations of perpetrators, raises issues that may not otherwise be expressed, and maintains a focus on the best interests of the child/youth. The CSEC Advocate learns of plans in place or forthcoming resources from partners that inform the youth’s action plan.

After assessment and review by the MDT, the youth and their CSEC Advocate collaborate together on a plan of action, to improve their safety, reduce future risk and move forward from trauma. Plans may include basic life essentials, support for the parent/guardian, education supports, probation or juvenile court issues, mental health and life skills counseling. It’s important to remember that commercial sexual exploitation of a child is traumatic for both the client and their family. CSEC Advocates are dedicated to working with the client’s families as well and connecting them with tangible resources to support health and healing.

In 2020, we began working with eight youth who were sexually exploited for commercial purposes. Surviving trafficking is a long journey. There is no time frame to how long we work with CSEC clients.

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Why are Sexual Assaults Under-Reported?

 

Most people will call the police if someone breaks into their home or steals something from their vehicle. Yet this is not the first reaction of most people who experience sexual violations.
According to rainn.org, 770 out of 1,000 sexual assaults go unreported to the police. That means that only 23% of all sexual abuse/assaults may have a response from the justice system.   

So why is it that most people do NOT call the police after experiencing sexual assault? 

There are many reasons — both personal concerns and system failures.

95% of the suspected sexual abusers are part of the victim’s family or social circle:  friend, friend of friend/family, date, boyfriend, roommate, coworker, fellow student, acquaintance, or person of power (e.g., landlord, teacher, boss).  

With this prevalence, the most common reasons given for not reporting #WhyIDidn’tReport:

  • “I just want him to leave me alone and put this behind me”
  • “He and his friends/family will make my life a nightmare”
  • “He will deny it and no one will believe me”
  • “My parents will kill him if they find out”
  • “The cops will call it “drunk sex” and tell me not to ruin his life”
  • “I was drinking, but I didn’t want to have sex”
  • “He will fire me and my friend if I tell anyone”

Social stigma and shame:  Common reactions immediately after include shame for trusting (I should have known better), self-blame (we were drinking), denial (it’s not that bad, he didn’t mean to hurt me). They feel responsible for “causing trouble” if they report their experience.   

Family or Community pressure:  In many instances (particularly with children and teens), both people are connected by family or friendship. Reporting the abuse/assault will disrupt the family system and people will “choose sides.” 

Fear or distrust of law enforcement:  The response by law enforcement varies widely by jurisdiction and the officer’s training. Fear of deportation exists when the victim or a member of the household is “undocumented.”  Language barriers also deter reporting.  

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault or abuse, call Mosaic Georgia at 866-900-6019. We will listen to you and help you sort out your options. All services are free and confidential.  You may choose to have a medical forensic exam at Mosaic Georgia without reporting to law enforcement. 

We want you to feel comfortable and ready if you choose to report. If you later decide to report the assault, the evidence collected can be available for testing. Whether or not you end up deciding to report, we are by your side every step of the way.

 

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2021, Here We Come!

 

Out with the old, in with the new! As ~tragic~ as it was to say goodbye to 2020 (yes, we are being sarcastic), 2021 is off to a hopeful start already. We have a long road ahead of us this year: There is still an ongoing health crisis that poses challenges to serving victims to the fullest while many are still stuck at home with their abusers. Furthermore, as an organization we must broaden our reach when it comes to service while maintaining the highest levels of safety for both our staff and our clients. 

While 2020 was a bust in more ways than one, Mosaic Georgia adapted and stretched to better serve our community. Here are several honorable mentions: 

  • Expanded our appointment hours to 12 hour days Mon-Fri and remained open to carry out services throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic, despite health risks and quarantine mandates.
  • Launched our Empowerment Fund to provide key client relief resources such as emergency shelter, housing stability, counseling and more.
  • Through the CARES Act, Mosaic secured housing navigation support, rent and utilities payments for victims who suffered financially along with the abuse trauma.
  • Launched the #MayI movement on social media, a campaign that strives to change the usual conversations surrounding consent and open the floor to share how it’s a normal part of everyday life. (Follow @mayi_movement to join the discussion!)
  • Launched an enhanced role in supporting our Gwinnett children and youth who have been sexually exploited for financial purposes, thanks to a new collaboration with the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia (CACGA). As the statewide coordinator for reports and response to commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), CACGA notifies us to respond to youth in Gwinnett County. Mosaic Georgia activates a multi-disciplinary team to assess the situation, meet with the child/youth and coordinate care to ensure their needs are being met.

Not a bad record for one of the most confusing and chaotic years to date! Now, as we enter 2021 full steam ahead we want to share our top goals for this new year: 

  • Expand our legal services and make a difference in how we serve victims by hiring a bilingual Victim Services Attorney and bilingual Legal Navigator (Yes, we are hiring, click here to learn more!).
  • Serving more CSEC Youth as a Children’s Advocacy Center.
  • Securing more operational space! As COVID continues, it’s essential to maintain social distancing. We are searching for additional space or a larger facility that can accommodate our expanding programs and serve more clients in the safest manner possible. 

We couldn’t have achieved so much in 2020 without the support of our board, our donors and our local community. There is still a long road ahead in putting an end sexual abuse and assault and we’ll need to come together again, if not stronger in 2021 to assist those suffering, especially victims who have suffered in silence throughout the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Mosaic Georgia is so excited to go above and beyond in 2021 and we can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us! Thank you all for your continued support. 

Best wishes, 

Mosaic Georgia

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A Brighter Future During Uncertain Times

 

Dear supporters, community partners and beloved clients, past and present, 

Hello! As we enter the 5th month of COVID-19 in our midst, the weariness from uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, and isolation is real. Fortunately, our Mosaic Georgia team remains in good health as we adapt with strict infection prevention protocols for all who come to the center. 
 
Like all service organizations, Mosaic Georgia looks for new and different ways to fulfill our mission. We listen, observe, and respond to the needs of our clients by cultivating resources to address threats to their safety, health, and justice (which includes healing). 
 
We told you about our Empowerment Fund launched a couple of months ago. Several grantors provided funds for specific client relief resources (transportation, counseling, emergency shelter, housing stability, civil legal issues, medications, etc.). The most significant (and costly) financial strain is basic housing. The eviction moratorium is lifted and landlords this month will file dispossessory actions on tenants who are behind on their rent. Families in emotional and financial distress require significant support to remain in their homes—right as school begins.
 
Here’s some fantastic news: Mosaic Georgia was just awarded $285,000 from Gwinnett County! These funds will help our financially-injured clients regain housing stability with the help of a housing navigator and assistance with rent and utilities. 
 
In an effort to strengthen the community impacted by COVID-19, Gwinnett County recently awarded $13.3 million to 104 local nonprofits and faith-based agencies. This was secured by the County through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). 
 
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has taken its toll on all of us, but victims of sexual assault and abuse are undoubtedly among the most severely afflicted. Job loss has left people pressed for resources to relocate from danger or access legal services, while extended periods of time in quarantine means that many individuals are stuck at home with or nearby their abusers. With this grant, Mosaic Georgia will be able to provide relief in the form of rent and utilities payments along with personalized housing navigation support.
 
At least $200,000 of the grant money will pay landlords and utility companies – an investment in the local economy and efficient way to avoid the costs created by losing shelter. The remaining amount will bolster staffing and operational activities to ensure that relief is provided and executed for clients as efficiently as possible. Mosaic Georgia’s Executive Director, Marina Peed, expressed “With the County’s support, we will ease the financial and emotional stresses our clientele experience during this time.” With these new funds, Mosaic Georgia is ready to bring certainty of a brighter future to those we serve even in the most uncertain of times! 
 
For more information about our housing services, please check out: https://www.mosaicgeorgia.org/housing-navigation-services/
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