Author brian

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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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: How Can Adults Help?

Co-authored by Marina Sampanes Peed and Amanda Makrogianis Mickelsen

One in three teens experiences verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner.

That’s a lot of young people.

Our society’s cultural norms foster these harms in a way that goes unnoticed, largely because these models are woven into the fabric of our collective mindset. Becoming aware of problematic norms and talking openly about their implications can help to change the conversation and lead to a shift towards healthy relationships.

What Exactly Is Teen Dating Violence?
Most people think of violence in the most visible form – physical harms. In fact, relationship violence includes many forms of violations of interpersonal trust and care. Dating violence (any relationship actually) may include verbal assaults and degradation, sexual coercion, assault, and abuse, psychological abuse, stalking, financial, and cyber-bullying.

The Norms We Know
The teen years are full of cognitive and physiological changes, hormonal evolutions and the navigation of social and structural expectations. Add to the mix that technology provides young people 24/7 access to pornography and constant sexual messages in marketing, social media, and entertainment…and quite the recipe emerges.

Pervasive cultural beliefs around sexuality and gender roles perpetuate unhealthy relationships and contribute to the normalization of dating violence among teens.

“Boys will be boys” and “She loves me” and “It’s not that bad”.

Society perpetuates beliefs that coercion is part of a mating dance. Girls learn very early to expect sexual aggression and violence while simultaneously being expected to prevent it.  When attachment occurs, it is tempting to excuse a partner’s harmful behavior.

The Cycle of Relationship Violence
The Teen Power and Control Wheel shows how the cycle perpetuates itself without intervention.

People who abuse may believe:

  • they possess their partner
  • strength equals physical aggressiveness
  • they have the right to control their partner in any way, including demanding intimacy
  • being a “nice guy” can cause young males to lose social capital

Their partners may believe:

  • their partner’s jealousy and possessiveness is romantic
  • they are “lucky” to have a cute, popular or powerful person “into them”
  • they are the ones responsible for solving problems in the relationship
  • abuse is normal because friends or other peers may also experience it

Our Impact
It is promising to know that this unhealthy mindset can merely be a developmental phase, leaving much opportunity for growth and change.

Young minds are like sponges absorbing information through societal observation – at home, within the family, and what is seen and read on TV, movies and in books. Their sense of self-worth is garnered from parents, family, friends and peer groups. Yet sex and consent are not topics that are talked about openly and can be seen as taboo in many households and societal institutions like church or school.

How Can Adults Provide Guidance?

  • Model healthy, nonviolent communication and self-respect
  • Be good listeners
  • Point out healthy relationships
  • Talk about the established cultural norms – and don’t be afraid to challenge them
  • Affirm individual worth and importance
  • Encourage young people to express their feelings
  • Provide tools to navigate various social settings
  • Offer a safe space for teens to talk among themselves

Challenging the Norms
Although parents may feel further away from their children during the teen years, it’s important to remember that their perceptions around established norms can shift as difficult conversations about dating violence are kept front and center. In the paraphrased words of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’.

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The Healing Souls of Black Folk

By: Ashia Gallo

My interest in wellness and healing really exploded during my time living in Mozambique, an African nation along the southeast border of the continent. I was a Health Outreach Peace Corps volunteer in my mid-20s; my main work objective was planning public health projects for the local hospital in my rural farming community.

Understanding the role of traditional healers, or curanderos, and their contributions to how health and healing was approached in Mozambican culture was essential to my role. While encouraging locals to visit the hospital for drugs that would save their lives after HIV and malaria diagnoses, I quickly learned of the distrust and inaccessibility to Western medicines many Mozambicans faced. Thus, exploring how to integrate natural healing with public health education became an essential part of my work.

Black folk around the world have experienced unique threats to their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health for generations. The diverse ways in which cultures have survived and thrived despite these realities across the Black Diaspora spans multiple continents and generations elicits awe. The lasting traditions carried forward by descendants of various cultures from mainland Africa can be seen in the food, dance, rituals, innovations, and folklore of Black people around the world.

In terms of food, Black cultures across the Americas created everything from life-saving medicines to world-renowned cuisines, all from the natural herbs and products of their lands. The comfort and resourcefulness of soul food evolved from Southern slaves’ determination to make magic out of scraps, and to use delicious flavors to bring families together in nourishment and celebration. Farmers, cowboys, and creole cooks also add to the mosaic of cuisines.

Music and dance have also always been tools for expression, spirituality, and unity in Black communities. Gospel music sustained sacred space for oppressed communities. Soul and hip hop emboldened Black self-love and revolution. Dance is another healing modality that has been used as an expression of joy, sorrow, pain, and freedom through Black bodies. From ballroom to break dancing, there is no space where Black stories haven’t been told though the art of movement. Black culture has always been embedded in popular culture worldwide.
Spirituality and religion are forms of healing at the crux of many Black cultures. Traditional and ancestral belief systems integrate with larger organized religion throughout the world. Fixed creeds like Christianity and Islam have strong footholds across the Black Diaspora. The abundance of ways that traditional African spirituality has conceived ancestors, deities, gods, and spirit beings also runs through.

The trendiness of “wellness” is something I look forward to challenging as the coordinator for Mosaic Georgia’s Wholeness Collective programming. The facets of Black culture that have been commodified and repackaged for a mainstream audience have frequently undermined the purpose and purity of these modalities’ origins. It is my hope that Black dance teachers, cooks, artists, and other healing practitioners continue to offer their gifts to our clients from a gentle and informed space that makes trauma survivors feel safe, seen, and soulful.

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Faces of Mosaic Georgia

Marilucia Munoz
Bilingual Advocacy Specialist

Fun Fact: Mari loves to read true crime books. 
Mari Munoz is a first generation American with family origins in Mexico and Honduras. She graduated from the University of North Georgia with a Bachelors in Human Services Delivery and Administration in 2022. While getting her Associate’s degree, she discovered a strong interest in helping people of all sorts and in various ways. Her years of studying included multiple internships; the last one was with the DA’s office. In her time there it became clear that she wanted to become an advocate and help survivors during their process in the legal system. Mari started at Mosaic Georgia as a Bilingual Advocate in July of 2022 and in December moved into the role of Latinx Outreach Coordinator. 

Danna Downs
Executive Administrator

Fun Fact: Danna played softball in college! 
Danna earned her bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). When the pandemic hit, she decided to support the public school system and go back to teach math at her alma mater, Brookwood High School. While teaching full time, she continued her education at UGA and pursued her Master’s in Public Administration. Danna’s time working in the public school system and her work on her master’s degree led her to stay in the public sector and transition to her current role at Mosaic Georgia. She is honored to be able to support an organization with a mission as important as Mosaic’s and hopes to continue to further its growth so that more members of the community have access to their services.

Melissa Drinkard
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)

Fun fact: I love to mountain bike in my free time. 
Melissa earned her nursing degree from Georgia Perimeter College in 2015 and began her career as an Emergency Room Nurse. From there, she discovered her passion for helping individuals that have been victims of sexual violence. Melissa became a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner at the beginning of 2022 and began her journey as an on-call SANE at LiveSafe Resources in Marietta. Melissa Joined the Mosaic Georgia team in July 2022 as a full-time SANE where she gets to pour all of her dedication into the care of her patients.

Rachel Pearson
Advocacy Specialist & Volunteer Coordinator

Fun Fact: Rachel wrote an essay for a writing contest at her university and won! Her essay is published in her university’s literary magazine. 
Rachel received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Human Services Delivery and Administration from the University of North Georgia. Before joining the team at Mosaic Georgia, Rachel was an advocate at a domestic violence shelter which enabled her to gain valuable insight on the work of non-profits catered towards ensuring the safety and justice of victims of family violence. Rachel started last July as an Advocacy Specialist and has recently taken on the role of Volunteer Coordinator as well. She is incredibly proud and grateful to work for an organization whose mission is focused on believing and empowering all victims of sexual assault, providing them with lasting resources, and working alongside law enforcement and other agencies to ensure justice.

Winter 2022

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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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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