By Kira Zavala
This is the speech presented by Kira Zavala at the CAC’s Cherish a Child luncheon in October. Kira shares her experience as a survivor of child abuse and as a child receiving services from the CAC.
My name is Kira Zavala. I am a mother, wife, community volunteer, business woman and a survivor of child abuse.
In 1990 as an 8 year old little girl, I walked through the doors of the Children’s Advocacy Center. I was so scared. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know if people would believe what had happened to me, I didn’t know if I was safe and I didn’t know where my abuser was.
I had so many questions and I couldn’t find the right words to verbalize my questions. I was living in fear.
I remember walking into the building of the CAC for the first time and there were so many bright colors and it smelled so fresh and clean. I was seated in a waiting room with my mom and there were all of these really cool toys that I had never had the opportunity to play with before. They helped me to step outside of why I was there for a brief moment and gave me comfort.
Shortly after a lady greeted me, I said good bye to my mom and the lady walked me into a room that had a big two way mirror. I sat at a table with a piece of paper and coloring crayons. I knew it was time to start talking about what happened. My body got really hot and I began to get restless and scared.
I started coloring in order to not have to make eye contact with the lady. I remember being so ashamed and embarrassed to have to say it out loud. I felt that if I said it, it would be real and I didn’t want to remember it. But I knew I had to, in order to be safe and in order to not let it happen again to me, my siblings or anyone in my family.
After a few questions, I began to feel more and more comfortable talking to the interviewer. Once the interview was over, I had a sense of relief. But I didn’t know what was going to happen. The lady assured me that I was going to be safe. I rejoined my mother and we talked about the terrifying possibility of me having to testify in court.
I was afraid to have to make eye contact with my abuser. I was worried that he might try to hurt me again and in front of everyone. And I questioned, “What if he followed me home?”
On the day of court I remember being terrified. I again felt that I had done something wrong.
We first went to the Children’s Advocacy Center before going to the court house. We met in a room and everyone said wonderful things to me. I remember there being a social worker, a lawyer, a sheriff and a member of the CAC. After our meeting one of the ladies came into the room and gave me a light blue box. Inside was a crystal heart. I had never seen one close up. It was beautiful. While inspecting it she told me that I was strong, I was special and that I will grow up to be beautiful. It’s a moment in my life that I will never forget.
I held the crystal heart in my hand and walked to the court house. I held it as I took my oath and I held it even tighter during my testimony.
The lady was right! I am strong, I am special and I did grow up to be a beautiful.
Today, on behalf of 8 year old little Kira, the CAC, their community partners and most importantly the children who have and will walk through the doors of the CAC, WE would like to give you your very own Heart, please take one from the center of your table. As you hold this in your hand, know, as I did, that everyone in this room is STRONG, SPECIAL AND BEAUTIFUL.
All of the children who come to the Children’s Advocacy Center are STRONG, SPECIAL & BEAUTIFUL.
Thank you for your support for these children.
(Thank you, Kira, for sharing your story!)