Advocacy in Action: Children Walking to Protect Childhood

There are so many abuse survivors and advocates around the world who have turned their darkest moments into their brightest light, shining the way for others. Children and adults alike are changing the world through their dedication to spreading awareness and promoting healing for survivors. Our “Advocacy in Action” series features people who have been inspired by Lauren’s Kids and impacted by Lauren’s advocacy, and have carried the spark she lit forward into their own lives and communities. We hope you enjoy reading their stories…

Advocacy in Action: Children Walking to Protect Childhood

Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes many villages to help one transition from a victim of sexual abuse into a thriving survivor. The Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (GCCAC) is a safe haven for young victims and acts as an umbrella agency encompassing several entities, including the Child Protection Team, the Sexual Abuse Treatment Program, Family Advocacy, Kid’s Court, the Department of Children and Families, local law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office. The organizations investigate, assess and protect child sexual abuse cases, making sure victimized children receive the justice and care they deserve.

The Sexual Abuse Treatment Program at GCCAC uses trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing to help children heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.

“The crimes are unspeakable,” said Tasha Jackson, a therapist with the Center. “But the children and their families are remarkable. I am given the opportunity to help the children tap into their own natural resources and release the shame and guilt of their victimization and truly become thriving survivors.”

The children of the GCCAC have become advocates for other victims of child sexual abuse by making it their mission to use the healing they received to spread a message of hope and healing to others. About a year ago, these brave survivors made it a priority to form a Walk in My Shoes committee and participate in the event in 2015. The seed money for the “Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center Chapter of Lauren’s Kids Walk in My Shoes” ­came from a young survivor offering her own piggy bank collection to help other survivors. This extraordinary committee is made up of a board of staff members, parents and several young survivors. Below are photos of the very first committee meeting!

Committe2 Committee1

These children are dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of others and have raised nearly $2,700 for the 2015 Walk In My Shoes event. They are working diligently to continue raising awareness about child sexual abuse by selling “Teal Swag” at community events, hosting awareness booths at fairs and creating a GoFundMe page. What is truly inspiring about these children is that, despite their youth, they have initiated nearly all fundraising ideas and efforts. They are excited and proud to know they are a shining light helping other child victims understand that sexual abuse is NEVER a child’s fault and it’s ALWAYS OK to tell. These survivors and their transformations into empowered advocates for social change amaze the staff of GCCAC.

“To see a child explaining to an adult what the warning signs of child sexual abuse are and how to report abuse is inspiring to say the least,” Jackson said. “The group has provided the children with strength and tools to fight against the unspeakable crime of child sexual abuse and shine their light on the dark subject matter.”

The GCCAC Walk in My Shoes committee made up of these remarkable children has taken over planning and funding of the community fun day, in addition to the event route in Panama City on April 18 and 19. If you would like to help them reach their goal of recruiting 1,000 walkers, visit the Bay County event registration here.

Check out the photos below from the 2014 Walk in My Shoes!