CRISIS LINE

Category JUSTICE

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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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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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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Did You Know?

 

Did you know that in America every 92 seconds someone is sexually assaulted? Or that people between ages 12 and 24 are at higher risk for sexual assault and rape? How about that 1 in every 10 rape victims are male? Or that 21% of TGQN (Transgender, Genderqueer, Nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted? (Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence)

Did you know that the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Community is at higher risk for sexual assault and rape? Within the community, transgender people and bisexual women are at the highest risk. 61% of bisexual women, 47% of bisexual men, and 40% of gay men experience rape, physical violence, stalking, and/or other forms of sexualized violence. From the 61% of bisexual women, almost half (48%) were raped before age 18. (Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-assault-and-the-lgbt-community)

Due to the discrimination that people within the LGBTQ+ Community face from strangers, coworkers, family, the community at large, even friends, most of these crimes go unreported or are never even told to anyone. Additionally because of this discrimination, most LGBTQ+ victims and survivors feel that they cannot reach out for help. Here at Mosaic Georgia we are pleased to serve all victims because sexualized violence knows no sexual orientation, race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. We will treat you with respect and guide you through this difficult process.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexualized violence please call our 24-hour crisis line at 866-900-6019 to speak with a trained Advocate. If you are 18 or older we can even explain what non-investigative options, you have.

 

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Some people who have not experienced personal violence wonder aloud “Why don’t they report it?” A careful look at how society reacts to reported sex crimes may provide some clues. In the majority of assaults, the victim and perpetrator are acquaintances or in same social circles. Because the persons are known, relationships are called into question. Social media provides space for people to declare judgments as facts on cases where they have no direct knowledge. Recent cases show:

  • The perpetrator’s potential innocence is often valued higher than the victim’s experience.
  • The potential impact of punishment on the perpetrator’s life is weighted more than the impact of the crime on the victim.

Here are some of the most common reasons victims of sexual assaults do not report:

1. Fear of reprisal: Social stigma, bullying from peers. Parents/School punishment for being out, drinking, etc.
2. Fear of stress on the family and loss of relationship, housing, transportation, economic support.
3. Fear of losing job, education, children, economic support.
4. Not important enough to report. “I was drunk and I shouldn’t have been there.” “He kissed me/apologized after.”
5. Reputational risk: “Don’t want people to think I’m a drunk / loose / not a virgin.”
6. Incident was a personal matter. “Don’t want the police at my house.”
7. Fear of being exposed (e.g., gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status)

Sexual violence operates in plain sight.

Perhaps the better question is:

How can we make community safer so reporting a sexual assault is as safe as reporting a stolen vehicle?

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