A survivor shares her story: Why CAC matters

By Kira Zavala

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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!)

donate_nowYour donation to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County is doubled when you make a donation this November 2015 and on Giving Tuesday, December 1st!

 

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Posted in Child Abuse Prevention Training, History of the Center, Sexual abuse, Survivors, Volunteers and Supporters

Local survivor finds her calling teaching child abuse prevention

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My name is Connie Eaton, or as most people refer to me, Ms. Connie. I have been a volunteer at the CAC since October of 2014, and I am a survivor of sexual abuse. My story starts back when I was a teenager and learning to survive and cope with what I had been through.

Due to that personal experience, when I was sixteen, I told myself, “Someday I will make a difference in the life of a child who is dealing with what I have dealt with.”

I made that choice all those years ago, and it has been my intention ever since to someday become a volunteer in that capacity. Over the years, I have volunteered many hours of my time with different organizations.  As a teenager I was a Blue Bird volunteer. In my twenties and thirties I volunteered with Big Brother Big Sister and The Boys and Girls Club. And I have always opened my home to my friends and offered to care for their children when they needed some help.

In June of 2014 I attended my first Darkness to Light Stewards of Children class at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County (CAC).

When I walked out of that class, I knew I had to become a facilitator.

I needed, wanted and desired to facilitate this class for other adults.  I talked with CAC Director, Tammi Pitzen, and she was thrilled to hear that I wanted to become a facilitator. I attended the facilitator class in October 2014 and have been facilitating ever since.  My personal goal is to train 2000+ adults so that I can then become a “Train the Trainer”.

I have finally, after all these years, found my “calling in life”.

I find so much gratification being in class listening, sharing, educating and knowing that one more person is armed and ready when someday a child may disclose to them.

They will know how to respond, help, guide and make a difference in that child’s life.

If you are interested in attending a Stewards of Children Child Abuse Prevention training, contact Leah at 541-292-2408 or email her at: protectourchildrenjc@gmail.com.  Our next training is Monday, August 24th from 4:00 – 6:30 pm at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Medford, Oregon.

Ms. Connie Eaton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Child Abuse Prevention Training, Prevention of Child Abuse, Volunteers and Supporters

10 summer fun ideas for Rogue Valley kids/teens

Are you wondering what to do with the kids this summer? Here are some of our picks for summer fun and learning opportunities in the Rogue Valley!

1. The Jackson County Library Summer Reading Program

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Your local branch of the Jackson County Library Summer Reading Program has something for every age. Find out about FREE Summer Library Activities for kids & teens. New activities every week!

The Library Summer Reading Program

Summer Reading Activities Calendar

Story Time for Babies, Toddler and Preschoolers/Toddler Aerobics Schedule

Teen Activity Calendar

Library Branches: Hours and Locations

 2. Medford Parks and Recreation Summer Programs

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You will find many affordable fun activities for every age: Day camps, sports camps, fitness activities, aquatics, educational programs, day trips, movies, music, special events and more!

Check out the Medford Parks and Recreation Online Program Guide for a complete list, more information and how to register.

Medford Parks and Recreation Website

 3. Hanley Farm:

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Hanley Farm is a historic working farm, established in 1857. It is located just outside of downtown Jacksonville, Oregon. Hanley Farm offers a summer camp for kids ages 7-12, introducing them to life on a farm. Activities include caring for animals, gardening, cooking, old-fashioned homesteading skills, farm games and heritage-themed crafts. Each day campers create a farm fresh lunch together – harvest to table.

Hanley farm also has a full line up of family friendly events featuring, art, history, music and food.

Hanley Farm  2015 Event Schedule

 4. Movie Club

When the kids need a cool break from the heat, Tinsel Town offers an affordable Summer Movie Clubhouse deal.

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5. Local Farmer’s Markets:

At Rogue Valley farmer’s markets you can find fresh locally grown and organic produce, local handmade crafts, prepared food, live music and a wonderful experience of community!

6-12-2015 4Talent Artisans and Growers: Every Friday evening in Talent, Oregon all summer long. 5:30 – 8:30 pm

 

6-12-2015 3Rogue Valley Growers Market: Medford & Ashland Farmers Markets. Market hours and locations

 

6. Bowling

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Lava Lanes and Roxy Ann Lanes in Medford: Ages 17 & under receive two free games every day through Aug. 31st.

7. Rogue Valley YMCA and Ashland Family YMCA

Our local YMCAs offer day camps, swim lessons, child care, exercise/fitness classes for all ages, youth center, toddlers movement and music, youth sports, events and more!

Rogue Valley YMCA Summer Program Guide

Rogue Valley YMCA Website

Ashland Family YMCA Website and Summer Programs

8. Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts Summer Camps

OCPA is Southern Oregon’s original year-round theatre conservatory for youth, offering the Magic of Theatre summer camps. Their mission: Keeping the performing arts alive and within reach of everyone in our community. Visit: Oregon Conservatory.org

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9. Coyote Trails School of Nature

logo-regularCoyote Trails School of Nature offers nature-inspired outdoor and wilderness day classes, day camps, overnight camps, special projects and more.

Coyote Trails Website has a list of camps, classes and adventures!

10: Rogue Gallery & Art Center and Ashland Art Center

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Rogue Gallery & Art Center, in Medford, and Ashland Art Center, in Ashland, offer summer classes for kids in a variety of media: painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture, photography and more! Family Art Days at Rogue Gallery and Art Center are every Second Saturday from noon: July 10, August 8

Rogue Gallery & Art Center Summer Schedule of Classes

Ashland Art Center Calendar of Classes

To find out more about what to see and do in the Rogue Valley for kids and teens visit The Children’s Advocacy Center’s  Pinterest board: What’s Up Wednesday! We pin new events and activities of interest to families in our area every Wednesday!

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Posted in Adventure Therapy, Theatre Workshops, Activities for Kids

A chance for healing for boys who are victims of sexual abuse

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Sacred Ground Kapalua, Maui. This lone tree stands watch over the spirits buried there

By Randy Ellison, Speaker, writer and author of the book Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse

As I hear the many inspiring stories of healing that are told during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), I’m reminded of an amazing experience I had a few years ago.

I was invited to give a presentation to a small group of boys who had experienced sexual abuse …….age 10-13. I was nervous at the prospect of sharing with young survivors. I wasn’t sure what to put together in the way of a presentation. I always plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more before I do a presentation (anal retentive I think they call it!). Well for the first time in my life it just didn’t seem appropriate to prepare in advance. I thought I would know what to say when the time came.

I happened to watch a TED presentation from Brené Brown on shame that day, which was really about vulnerability. She shared that vulnerability is not really weakness as we perceive, but is in fact strength. When we expose ourselves as flawed and are willing to show our vulnerability, it is truly admirable and it opens the door for others to do the same. Well this is the theme I took to the boys. My entire preparation was based on a few words.

“…vulnerability is not really weakness as we perceive, but is in fact strength.”

  • Vulnerability
  • Control
  • Secrets
  • Shame
  • Alone
  • Not good enough
  • Me first (to heal we must)

I’ll let you put your own meaning to each of these words.

When I arrived I was informed that the boys did not generally talk in the group about having been victimized. It was more of a peer support group. I started by sharing that I had been sexually abused, by whom, when and for how long. I went on to share what it did to my life by not dealing with it. I then told them about the amazing things that had happened since I began to tell my truth. We talked about the words above and what they meant to me and what they might mean to them.

By the end of the time at least three of the boys had shared personal experiences and feelings about what happened to them. One boy, age 11, told me about being ridiculed by a teacher for stuttering. His classmates were even harsher. As a foster child, how he cherished the times he was allowed to see his parents. Another boy, age 12, told me he attempted to commit suicide by taking pills, but now he takes pills that help him get through the day. A third boy shared that he was abused the way I was, and sometimes he has nightmares and wakes up scared in the middle of the night.

I wrapped it up with how lucky they were to have a group and a place like they were at to help them heal so they would not grow up with the problems I had. They had the opportunity to heal and become whole if they chose to and worked hard. I left with a broken heart for the pain these children are suffering, and praying that they will go on to live healthy lives with the help they are getting at a young age.

It was such an honor to spend time with these boys who are crying out to be heard, loved and understood. Any chance you may have to step in and become a mentor or Big Brother/ Big Sister to a child like these, you will find you are doing heaven’s work. It is amazing how a little time and effort can mend a broken soul. May you be as blessed as I was that evening.

randy-thumbSpeaker, writer and author of the book Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse, Randy Ellison is a child-sexual-abuse, victim’s advocate and an activist promoting cultural change working with local, state and national organizations. Randy also works as a consultant for nonprofits dealing with awareness and prevention of intimate violence. He addresses abuse prevention and healing for survivors from a survivor’s perspective. Randy is a member of the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force. He maintains his own website boysdonttell.com

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Posted in Books, Mentoring, Sexual abuse

How long will we look the other way

By Danielle Ellison of Medford, Oregon

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How do we value the life of a child? How do you put a price on Christmas morning, the first day of school, snow angels in the winter, cannonballs in the summer, and high school graduation?

I ask because my son was nearly robbed of these memorable childhood moments. On Sept. 22, 2014, my life changed forever. Horrible abuse had been taking place in my absence, and on that fateful day in September a bright light was shed on a dark issue.

My 3-month-old son was a victim of child abuse, more specifically shaken baby syndrome. His future is unclear, and each day I awake wondering if today is the day that will unveil permanent damage, left behind by the brain injury inflicted by his abuser.

Many other children have not been as fortunate as my son; children left devastated, fighting fearlessly to overcome, to heal, to live. When they do live, they are often left blind, deaf, unable to walk or attached to feeding tubes. Many are left plagued with seizures, impaired motor skills, impaired speech and cognitive disabilities.

While these children are suffering, trying to find the silver lining of this dark cloud, the ones responsible are minimally punished. All too often, the ones who are shattering our youth are serving minimum sentences for inflicting maximum pain, and frequently permanent damage.

These are atrocious crimes, committed against the most defenseless victims. Any bail amount is intolerable. After searching the inmate list of the Jackson County Jail, and comparing bail amounts of different cases, I was left confused and disappointed. How is it that a person can nearly kill an innocent, defenseless infant and his bail be set at an amount that is three times lower than that of a person being charged with a robbery where no one was injured?

What kind of message does that send? To me, it sends a message that says material objects as a whole are more valuable than the life and future of a child.

No amount of money will erase cerebral palsy. It will never give the sight of the sun setting to that child left blind, or the sound of the rain falling to that child left deaf. Our children are our most valuable blessings. When are we going to start protecting them?

These crimes are crippling our youth. Yet, the culprits responsible often are walking away with a slap on the wrist. A few years ago, a 5-week-old baby girl was severely abused at the hands of her own father. She was violently shaken on numerous occasions. She was left severely brain damaged, and her development halted, leaving her 5 weeks old forever.

She fought like a warrior for nine years, and then, 10 days short of her 10th birthday, she passed. Her abuser was found incompetent to stand trial because he had a low IQ. This man held down a job, drove a car and lived a normal adult life. Justice was never served for this innocent child.

In another instance, nearly two years ago a 2-month-old boy’s life was changed forever. This infant, at the most defenseless time in his life, was strangled, shaken and beaten. These attacks caused severe brain bleeding and 25 fractured bones all over his body.

Now nearing his second birthday, this child should be learning his ABCs, potty training and jumping on his mommy’s bed. Instead he is plagued with seizures, and developmental delays. He is unable to sit up on his own, and has been diagnosed with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. A young life was devastated before it began to flourish, and somehow, some way, three years seemed an appropriate sentence for his abuser. I cannot ignore that.

Both of these examples are of local children, and they only scratch the surface. There are many more. Our children deserve the right to experience the simple joys in life, not just its sorrows.

I am a single mother of two boys and understand that there are moments in parenting where you feel like crossing that line out of frustration, but you just can’t do it. My question is, when are the consequences of these actions going to be substantial enough to force caregivers to walk away in those moments of frustration? When are we going to say “no more?” These are not cases of two adults fighting, or vengeance being sought. This is innocence in its purest form, being destroyed.

 

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Posted in Prevention of Child Abuse

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

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Post by Jennifer Wolfe, mother, teacher, and writer. Originally published on Huff Post Parents: The Blog

I’m a creature of habit. As much as I love adventure, I take comfort in the little routines of motherhood, carefully evolved over years of practice. Those small moments help center me, help me to feel at peace — knowing my babies are right where they’re supposed to be every night and morning. They are the ordinary moments of motherhood that bring me unimaginable joy.

Since August, my routines have been turned topsy-turvy. Pre-dawn tiptoeing down the hall, quietly nudging open bedroom doors, I find only one bed occupied. The other remains as it was last night, and the night before, and the night before that, white duvet pulled tautly against the black bedframe. White carpet screams vacancy at me in absence of dirty laundry, skis and textbooks. She’s not here.

When I dropped my daughter off at college in August, life had thrown those ordinary moments in the air like debris after a tornado. A flooded kitchen and broken bones combined to transform a quiet July into absolute chaos. I mourned the changes happening around me, yet at the same time, I couldn’t think about them for more than a moment. Life was just that tumultuous. Unpredictable. The “new normal” was unfolding in front of me, and although I knew it was coming, I felt unprepared. Vulnerable.

As moments spun into days, I wound up at her college convocation — alone. This was it, the last official event before I would drive the 600 miles back to reality — alone. It was a celebration of great importance in her life. It was the moment I’d been preparing for and denying for 18 years, and there was no stopping it. Time was in motion. This was really happening.

Bagpipers brusquely proclaimed the arrival of 500 new freshman, kids ready to launch their dreams and move to the next phase of their lives. To find the extraordinary in life. To celebrate their transition to a life on their own.

Life wasn’t exactly going according to plan. I wasn’t supposed to have to battle this moment on my own. I felt my body lighten as she walked down the aisle in her tie-dye T shirt, smiling yet just a touch apprehensive. She’s California, I thought. The only one in the room.

I sat in the bleachers, fighting the tears and watching my little girl’s childhood flash before my eyes, and began to listen to Dr. Richard Badenhausen, head of the Honors College, read William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents. In that moment, my heart lifted just enough to catch a glimpse of clarity- just enough to cement me in the present:

Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

Have I done that? Is that the 2-year-old girl down there — the one who delighted in smearing peaches in her mouth, juice oozing down her chin? Is that the 5-year-old who grabbed my hand and pulled me to the jungle gym to proudly perform her latest trick? Did all the years of homework and studying and projects and sports and testing and applications prepare her for the ordinariness of life? She reached her goal, she’s attending the college of her choice — hopefully the one of her dreams, too. Is she ready to leave the moments of self-doubt, of wondering if her transcript is strong enough or her athleticism amazing enough to have a college want her? Is she ready to stop worrying about being extraordinary and just enjoy being… ordinary?

“The path to success travels through the ordinary. Life is transformative through the lens of time,” the speaker continued. He’s speaking my language. Have I not spent the last 18 years peering into this day? Have I not known that each moment we spent together would help guide her down this path? Why are these words causing me to weep?

“Listen when others speak,” he advised. “Have conversations with professors. Write second drafts of essays. Ask for help — perfection is an unattractive quality.” Grit, I thought. Digging deep – that attribute we hope our children develop over years of testing and writing and competing. What she learned on the ski hill. What I hope she left home with. What I know will see her through. What I hope she’s listening to at this very moment.

“Focus on the ordinary,” he continues. My attention is rapt-is hers? “Build a foundation that will steady you. Have awareness of yourself and your place in the world. Focus on the ordinary. The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

He ends his speech and the crowd applauds. Bagpipers chant and drone their way down the center of the room, the freshmen following behind. She’s one of the last out – I can spot her green and yellow tie dye from the bleachers. I recognize that look on her face – the one where she knows she’s done well and that I’m watching.

Aware of her place in the world — yes she is. Her foundation is rock solid.

She’s ready.

She’s extraordinary.

She can take care of herself.

Read Jennifer Wolfe’s blog at: http://jenniferwolfe.net

Posted in Parenting

Building Bridges: Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts Workshop for CAC Kids and Teens

This is a guest post by Caitlin Lushington, a theatre instructor with the Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts

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I was recently asked to teach a theater arts workshop to kids and teens from the Children’s Advocacy Center. Little did I know that I would be learning just as much, if not more, as the students themselves.

The theater is sometimes looked on as vehicle for escape. I get students all the time who say that they love the theater because it allows them to become someone else, go to a different world, and let their imaginations take them far, far away.

I try to teach my students that instead of allowing us to abandon or ignore the world around us, the theater provides us with the opportunity to learn how to be present in the world, be present with each other, and be comfortable with our own ideas and thoughts.

It was this last idea that I focused on the most with my students from the CAC.

We played games and exercises that focused on embracing and accepting all of the ideas in our heads—even the “silly” ones. For example, in the game “Experts,” students were asked to become an “expert” in a topic chosen by an audience of their peers—topics that ranged from German Stroganoff to Purple Tigers to Wearing Bathing Suits at the Zoo. As long as I was pointing at the student, they had to continue telling us about their subject.

The idea was to show students that they never run out of ideas—they could keep talking about Purple Tigers until the cows came home! By the end of our workshop,

I had students who had started out with very little to say, jumping at the opportunity to share their ideas.

This is why I teach theater: to encourage students to become comfortable and confident in who they are and to develop students’ ability to work, support and encourage each other. And the more I teach, the more I learn about how to do these things myself, and hopefully I become a better teacher because of it.

And maybe one day, one of these students goes on to take more theater classes, and they decide to teach, and the CAC offers them an opportunity to teach—and the beautiful cycle begins again.

This workshop was part of the CAC’s Building Bridges Project, funded by WiLL Council of United Way, The Ashland Food Co-op, and the Touvelle Foundation, with the purpose of removing barriers that keep families from getting the services they need and to make a “bridge” for children and teens back into the community after experiencing trauma.

Caitlyn OCPA

Caitlin Lushington

 

 

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Posted in Building Bridges Project, Theatre Workshops
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Everyone's voice and effort matters when it comes to ending and healing child abuse. Here we feature the voices from our community who are working to do just that -- our leaders, educators, families, businesses, nonprofits, media, as well as the Children's Advocacy Center's staff, board and advisory committee members, corporate sponsors, interns, foundations and government funders.

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