If I mentioned the names Jian Ghomeshi or Brock Turner, I am certain the majority of you would know exactly whom I was speaking of. You would likely express outrage and anger over the acts of both of these men, frustration at criminal justice systems that failed their victims, and an outpouring of support for the women that have been impacted by the violence against them at the hands of these perpetrators.
I am so very grateful we are talking about sexual violence because we need to talk about it. However, it is easy to provide support to these women because their voices are being heard by the masses.
Unfortunately, for nearly any child who has been sexually or physically abused, they cannot talk about it. They do not have the ability to reach out to the public to ask for help or support. They do not have the means to scream through Facebook or the media “Would someone please hear me”. Because they are children, they most often do not have a voice.
What we know for certain is that the single most important indicator of long-term success and healing for children and youth who have been abused is that they are believed.
To every child who has ever been hurt, every family that has ever gone through this type of anguish - Change For Families In Need believes you and we believe in your right to be heard.
As a community we have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable. When we protect our children and break the stigma and silence of child abuse, when we believe children, we create a safer and healthier village for everyone.
Our Change For FIN village has made a commitment to provide children, youth and their non-offending caregivers with the support they deserve. We will build a community that responds collectively to child abuse and empowers those who have been impacted. We will provide support and advocacy in an system that is sorely lacking both.
The criminal justice system is the same whether you are 4 or 34. Children are expected to follow the same report, court-prep, testify procedure as adults without the same access to services simply because they are under the age of 16. If our objective includes holding perpetrators of violence against children accountable for their actions, this does not work. Children cannot be expected to follow this pattern, it simply isn’t fair or realistic and, as a result, too many perpetrators are walking free.
Child and Youth Advocacy Centres have been in existence in the US since the mid-80’s. They provide the leading model for best practices in the management of child abuse cases world- wide.
Change For FIN will follow this model, we will provide a single point of access for services that are child-focused, comprehensive, timely and coordinated. This collaborated effort with partner agencies will put the focus of services squarely on children and families. This has been proven to be the most effective and efficient way to support child and youth victims of sexual and physical violence as it offers sensitive and accessible services to ensure a child’s long-term well being. This type of support will minimize system-induced trauma and avoid re-victimization, both unfortunate effects of our current legal system for many families.
My belief is that we can open doors, not just in the form of bricks and mortar, but that we can open doors that provide opportunities for honest and realistic support, doors that allow for advocacy for these families, doors that provide a space for mothers to ask difficult questions and to grieve. We will open doors that will change the systems that currently exist, systems that by their very design are set up to fail because our rates of successful prosecution are less than 3%.
The letter written by the survivor of Brock Turner’s assault was heard internationally but the reality is that victims should not have to be eloquent or powerful or even able to speak for themselves to get our attention. Their truth should be enough. When we are only moved by FaceBook posts and news articles that are written in language that grasps our attention, we are perpetuating the myths of abuse and placing an undue burden on survivors to communicate their trauma in a way that is logical, compelling and comprehensive. This is not fair to any child who has been abused as they are not gifted with a language to describe their experience, their innocent childhood logic sometimes does not even understand that what was happening to them was wrong, nor do they know how to access a platform that would allow them to tell you their stories. They do not deserve to be denied justice as a result of not being able to speak out. And if you are indignant about Jian Ghomeshi or Brock Turner and part of the million of people that are enraged by their actions, then you need to be even more outraged about the number of children who are not receiving justice for crimes against them in our own community.
Change For Families in Need stands here today because we believe survivors and we have made a commitment to hear children. It is on us. To every single person who has endured their own pain of abuse, to all of you who have stood by family or friends feeling helpless and uncertain, and to each of you who have ever had to hold a hurting child- we believe you, we hear you and we are fighting so hard for change for you.