Stories From Smaller Nonprofits: Baltimore Child Abuse Center

12/28/2011

StarsWe continue our special December series that shines a spotlight on nonprofit organizations that are often in the shadows. Today's nonprofit pulls back the curtains and exposes horrific abuse to children. Shedding light on the secrets begins the healing. 

In 1987, Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) opened as a non profit in response to growing awareness that sexually abused children not only suffered from the abuse they endured, but they were also being re-victimized by the lengthy and often repetitive investigative process intended to help them. Last year, BCAC saw more than 850 children and their families.  

Jennifer Noparstak, Director of Development - Each child who comes to BCAC decorates a butterfly that hangs in the center. There are too many butterflies. BCAC is committed to ending child sexual abuse in Maryland. It can be done if we, as adults, learn more about this crime of secrecy and take responsibility for protecting our children.

The story teller for this story is Jacquelynn Kuhn.

Jacquelyn is deeply dedicated to improving the lives of children, volunteering with both the Baltimore Child Abuse Center and with Art with a Heart (AWAH), a nonprofit agency that focuses on teaching art to underserved communities in the Baltimore area. She has served as the Assistant Director for the Center for Ethics, Service and Professionalism at Michigan's Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and has worked for the American Cancer Society. She has received many awards including the 2009 Appreciation Award from the Oakland County Bar Association's 15th Annual.

Jacquelynn KuhnMs. Kuhn is committed to telling her story of child sexual abuse and healing whenever and wherever she is invited to share it.  She does this to spread hope to victims and survivors and to help to prevent this crime from happening to more children.

Note: We are honored to have Jacquelynn help us understand the world of abuse through her own story. Please take note that Jacquelynn does not sugar coat her tale. 

My name is Jacquelynn Kuhn, and I am an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. 

My abuse began when I was 5 years old. Just like a typical case of sexual abuse, my abuser was someone my family knew and trusted. He was 16 years old, and lived next door to my family. There were a lot of kids in our neighborhood, and we all played together.

My abuser would take me up to the tree house in the yard behind my house and molest me while all of my friends played below us. No one else knew what was happening, and I never told. Abusers are masters of manipulation, and he used many different tactics to keep me silent.

He threatened me. He told me if I told anyone or stopped letting him abuse me, he would bring my older brother or younger sister up to the tree house and do worse things to them.

He made me feel ashamed. He told me if I didn't like what was happening, I would not keep coming outside to play with him and my other friends.

He convinced me that I'd be the one to get in trouble. When I finally got brave and threatened him that I would tell my father and that he would go to jail for the bad things he was doing to me, he laughed and told me that I was doing the same bad things, and I would be the one to go to jail because my father would be angry with me that I hadn't told him earlier.

When you're 5 years old and experiencing something so vile, and heinous, and shameful, it's not easy to tell anyone about it. That's why the work Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC) does is so important.

I've trained with BCAC to give Prevention Workshops. After attending a few and sharing my story, I've seen what a difference prevention education makes. Getting this information in front of parents and educators is crucial for the safety and protection of our children against abusers who relentlessly look for new victims.

I was never taught about my body in school, not at such a young age. And we never talked about our bodies in my family, unless it was to make us feel ashamed so that we didn't do anything "wrong" or "bad" with our bodies.

HelpUsKeepKidsSafe
If I had been given the correct vocabulary-the proper anatomical names for my body parts-and if I had been told over and over again that I am in control of my body and no one should be touching me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable or confused, I would have had the knowledge in the beginning stages of my abuse to know it was wrong and that it wasn't my fault. And I would have been empowered to tell someone, instead of feeling powerless to tell anyone.

My abuse ended when I was 7 years old, and only because my father was transferred to a new location. I didn't tell my family about my abuse until just recently, after I was well into my 30's and after I went through a very painful divorce from a man who also abused me. And even then, I was still afraid to tell my family about my abuse.

That's how powerful the shame and guilt can be for a victim who doesn't get help through treatment and community support. Without reporting their abuse and receiving acceptance, support, and empowerment from a caring community that surrounds them, victims end up with lives much like mine, where they continue to be abused in different relationships and even abuse themselves.

That's why I designed the butterfly mosaic mural in BCAC's family waiting room. It's there to symbolize the hope for healing in every victim and survivor of child sexual abuse. Butterflies

As a survivor, to be able to see myself in the reflective mirrors of one of those butterflies and know that I am on a path of healing, self-expression, and beauty is a powerful thing.

Many people in the community banded together to work on the mosaic, putting broken pieces of tile that symbolize the broken pieces of my life-and the lives of all sexual abuse victims-together in a way that makes sense and creates a beautiful picture from something that happened that didn't make any sense and was extremely ugly.

Knowing that a community of such caring individuals expressed concern for the healing of victims and survivors in such a tangible, loving way has taught me just how valuable I am.

The epidemic of child sexual abuse in our nation and in this world seems very overwhelming at times, but it's just as Helen Keller once said:  "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do."

I will continue to promote BCAC and its incredible work so that I can help spread hope to victims and survivors and work to prevent this crime from happening to more children, and I hope others will read this and be inspired to do the same. We each have a voice that can be used to speak out against child sexual abuse to help victims and survivors heal.

 None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.

 Social Media Lessons and Challenges

BCAC uses its Facebook and Twitter pages as a means to build an online community to raise awareness of the issue of child sexual abuse and the resources it offers at the center.

One of the goals is to make the Facebook page a platform for discussion on the issue and to inspire others to open up and speak their mind.  We post content on our pages to engage our followers and to encourage open conversation.  By engaging our followers we are able to expand our social reach on these networks and further raise awareness to a broader base.

Through our social media efforts we also would like to convert more of our followers into donors.  We have multiple platforms online and directly through Facebook for accepting donations, and are currently working on ways to further encourage our supporters to make charitable donations to BCAC.  As a non-profit, we thrive because of our supporters and ultimately our programs and services are not possible without their support.  Donations can be made online.

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Comments

We really enjoy that you refer to your guests as story tellers! Makes them much more engaging and interesting! And we always love to hear stories of how social media is being used to benefit the world around us.

Posted by: The Dragon Search Online Marketing Manual on Dec 30, 2011 10:59:15 AM

What a heart wrenching story. That is the real problem with abuse, the whole process is not only physically taxing, but the perpetrator attacks the mental capacity of the person as well. My heart goes out to all those little kids, and even adults who went through this painful and horrifying experience.

Posted by: San Diego Marketing on Jan 3, 2012 8:44:14 PM

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