Author miguelm

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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Introducing the Crisis Support and Empowerment Fund!

 

Is 2020 over yet? Between the COVID-19 pandemic and community consciousness movements surrounding violence against black and brown people that have shaken our planet, it seems impossible to not feel the aftershocks of collective exhaustion and trauma from the layers and duration of human suffering. This pain is not equitably distributed. There is, however, some good news amidst the chaos. We see from our work that healing can happen with honest, difficult conversations about the problems prevailing in our society and their impacts followed by coordinated actions to create a common good.

Mosaic Georgia’s mission is to take action and guide change for the safety, health & justice of children and adults impacted by sexual violence. Sexual assault victims are often hit the hardest as the resulting financial strains or loss of employment pose yet another barrier to securing safety and defense from their abusers. With our commitment to help people put their lives back together, we launched a Crisis Support & Empowerment Fund. Thanks to our community partners, including United Way of Greater Atlanta, we have several resources to help victims, and provide stability and planning for future success during this unprecedented time.

Victims and their immediate families almost always experience intense disruption following the disclosure of sexual abuse or violence. The psychological trauma is compounded by time and financial stressors. A bit of help can often provide a stable base to establish new roots and start new, empowered lives.

A parent reached out to us last week for help in breaking their lease. The man who raped her daughter last year had been coming to their home at odd hours, creating more uncertainty and distress. Both parents have lost wages due to COVID-19. Our legal advocates assisted in negotiating out of the lease while our housing navigator helped secure sufficient funds for a new landlord to cover the security deposit and first month’s rent for their new home, as well as transfer utility billings. “We felt trapped and helpless because we couldn’t afford to move. Our daughter couldn’t sleep and didn’t feel safe. We’re moving this weekend! You are a blessing to our family.”

The Crisis Support & Empowerment Fund helps victims transition into survivors through these services:

  • Housing Navigation & Assistance: help develop an action plan for housing and financial stability in the COVID-19 era.
  • Counseling Support: Connections to trauma-focused therapy/counseling to assist with healing. Financial support may be available.
  • Legal Services: Free assistance with civil legal issues arising from sexual assault/abuse victimization including protective orders, child custody, child support, divorce, employment, education, and housing issues.

This fund allows us to assist with essential, immediate and short-term needs such as transportation, medications, groceries, clothing, emergency shelter, housing preservation and homelessness prevention.

2020 has been nothing short of challenging. The COVID-19 era has made change and adaptability a new norm and has also pushed organizations everywhere to innovate new ways of serving their communities. Mosaic Georgia is excited to be part of this new opportunity to not only break down barriers preventing victims of sexual violence from moving forward, but also be an active part in working to change the conditions that allow personal violence to persist.

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Our 24-Hour Crisis Line

 

Survivors of sexual assault may experience many different emotions after the incident. Each individual processes and responds to the trauma differently. Often there is the confusion of what steps to take next. A survivor may wonder whether he or she should report the incident or obtain specialized medical attention or counseling. During this time of uncertainty, Mosaic Georgia’s year-round, 24-hour confidential crisis line is available to help victims and their families by answering their questions and finding resources to support them through this difficult time.

The crisis line is open to everyone. Our crisis line connects the caller with an on-call trained advocate. The advocate listens to the caller and addresses his or her questions in a calm and professional manner. The advocate can also provide counseling referrals or help the individual make a report to law enforcement.

Our crisis line is free, confidential, and available all day and night. Our advocates are here to listen to you and believe you while they provide guidance on the possible steps you can take. If you, a family member or a friend is ever in need of our assistance, we are always just one call away at (866) 900-6019. No matter the circumstances, we are here to help you without judgement.

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Solutions for Survivors/Victims of Crimes: the Criminal Justice System, Civil Legal Remedies, and Non-legal Assistance

 

Helpful responses to sexual assault and sexual abuse can take many forms. The criminal justice system is an important part of the puzzle for many victims of crimes, but sometimes a lack of corroborating evidence and other factors prevent cases from ending in arrest and eventual conviction. For a reported perpetrator to be found guilty, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (See the chart below) that the crime occurred and that the reported perpetrator is the one who committed the crime. This is an extremely high burden of proof.  Additionally, adult victims of crimes may choose not to report their assault to law enforcement, and as a result, the criminal justice process may never begin. If the criminal justice system doesn’t lead to the conviction of the perpetrator, are there other options for victims of crimes?

In some cases, people who experience sex-based crimes are helped most by advocacy and support services that don’t involve the legal system. Mosaic Georgia has a talented team of victim advocates on staff to assist these clients with support and non-legal resources.

In other cases, civil legal remedies may provide helpful safety options and can assist victims of crimes with protections for their privacy, solutions for housing issues, help with immigration needs, answers to custody or divorce issues associated with the assault or abuse, resolutions to education problems stemming from the assault or abuse, and other creative remedies. Mosaic Georgia’s legal team is available to provide information, resources, referrals, and/or legal representation for victims of crime who need assistance in qualifying matters, as resources allow. Call Mosaic Georgia today (or speak with an attorney of your choosing) to discuss whether (and which!) civil legal remedies may be helpful to you.

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What is Volunteering?

By: Raheela, Administrative Volunteer

 

Essentially, it is donating your time and energy to help an individual or organization. Personally, I believe it is one of the most generous ways through which an individual can help others. Although a volunteer is willing to offer so much without expecting anything in return, he or she receives something that is more valuable than any physical gift: fulfillment.

At Mosaic Georgia, we strive to provide support to victims of sexual harm through the multiple advocacy services we provide. During this emotional period, we stand with the victim and his or her family every step of the way. Our group of 22 volunteers is vital in helping us provide support to our community. Volunteers complete 30 hours of special initial training and ten hours of continuing education each year. They support our cause as either Advocate or Administrative Volunteers.

An Advocacy Volunteer works under the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator. He or she responds to crisis calls, providing direct support to victims during evenings and weekends. The volunteer emotionally assists the victim throughout the forensic medical exam and law enforcement interview. He or she provides additional resources the victim may need in a safe, caring, and confidential manner.

I support Mosaic Georgia as an Administrative Volunteer. Although I only volunteer once a week, I find the work I do has a strong impact on the functionality of Mosaic Georgia. My day starts with assembling the resource folders we provide to victims and their families. The folder includes information about the victim’s rights, compensation he or she can receive, counseling information, and services that Mosaic Georgia can provide. It includes a brochure that emphasizes the importance we place on Safety, Health, and Justice. After assembling both English and Spanish folders, I help our Outreach staff prepare for any upcoming events. This includes gathering promotional items and preparing the display board for outreach and community education events. By spreading awareness of our cause and our presence in our community, we can educate others on sexual assault and provide resources for its victims. Once a month I focus on maintaining our inventory. It is important that we have adequate supplies, such as snacks for the victims if they need it. Throughout the day I greet visitors and answer phone calls, helping to maintain the friendly and caring environment of Mosaic Georgia.

As someone who cares strongly for people impacted by sexual violence and abuse, I strive to make an impact.

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Change Happens Here

By: Marina Peed

My kids will tell you that I like to discuss uncomfortable topics. The best way to address a problem is to push past the discomfort and talk directly. Danger thrives in dark, unattended places…including the crisper drawers of my refrigerator. We can do better and we must do better.

Why are sexual assault and child sexual abuse still occurring?  There are laws which criminalize sexual violations. Yet only 35% of victims report these crimes to law enforcement.  What social conditions make you more comfortable reporting a stolen car than a sexual assault? You have a lot more to lose and questions to answer after an assault.

Mosaic Georgia, formerly Gwinnett Sexual Assault Center & Children’s Advocacy Center, served almost 1,000 new victims of sexual molestation and sexual violence last year. The vast majority (62%) of our clients were minors: 35% of our clients/patients were under 12 years of age; 27% were 12-17 years old; 18% were 18-24 (college age).  Most of our clients are female (84%) yet we serve everyone regardless of sex or gender identity.

As a mom and an advocate for all children, I encourage you to push through the discomfort and talk to someone in your home, office, school, faith community, or bowling league about ending sexualized violence. You can create an environment where your family and friends can feel safe and supported. Mosaic Georgia is here to help facilitate those conversations.

March 3-9 is No More Week across the country and the theme is Change Happens Here.  Even small actions can go a long way toward creating a society that does not tolerate domestic violence and sexual assault. The best sexual assault prevention occurs when EVERYone is respected.

Change happens…

  • when we act as if we respect ourselves
  • when we act as if we respect others
  • when we don’t assume
  • when the “bro code” holds guys accountable instead of covering up bad behavior
  • when good people intervene rather than pretend not to see
  • when consent is requested
  • people are believed first and feel safe to tell what happened
  • when we promote healthy relationships and boundaries from infancy
  • when treatment is available to children who exhibit problematic sexualized behavior

Sexual abuse and assault is 100% preventable behavior. You can help change our common culture that has supported violence for too long. Please join us. #ChangeHappensHereGwinnett

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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.

24/7 Help Line: 866-900-6019.

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