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.
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.