Tag Archives: 1000 voices for compassion

Interview: A Voice for The Innocent

AVFTI

While looking for something else on the Internet, I discovered this fantastic organization called A Voice for the Innocent. They provide support for those who have been victims of sexual abuse. A Voice for the Innocent gives sexual abuse and rape victims a safe place to share their story. Some might say that the one of the first steps in healing and recovery is to tell your story.

This group really deserves some recognition for all of the great things that they do. Bethany from A Voice for the Innocent responded to my questionnaire, which is appreciated.

If you get a chance to go to Warped Tour, please visit the AVFTI booth. Also, please visit their website and find out how to volunteer or share your own story.

 

How did AVFTI come into being?

AVFTI was developed because of Jamie Sivrais. Jamie survived sexual abuse from his father. When he disclosed his story to his mother, she responded in a way that gave Jamie as much control as he could have. This made Jamie comfortable telling his story later on. When Jamie was in a band, he would tell his story and people would in turn disclose their story. Jamie often heard people say “but you’re the first person I’ve ever told.” Jamie sought out to create a space where people could anonymously share their story of sexual assault or abuse and not be judged.

 

What are some of the goals of AVFTI?

AVFTI’s ultimate goal is to eventually not exist. We want everyone to be met with a response of belief and support when they tell their story. Eventually, we want to create a world that does not accept or question sexual assault.

 

What is the most difficult thing about working for AVFTI?

Personally, it’s really hard to hear stories and not focus on the anger or sadness I feel for victims. I want people to feel like they matter, and we often find that a person’s first time disclosing their story they are questioned or not believed. That’s hard. I want to make it right, but I can only do what I can in that moment.

 

How do you stay positive?

Our volunteers and my fellow board members all work tirelessly and have such immense energy at the end of the day. They are some of my best friends. When we started building this community, we created a community of friends who support one another.

 

How can others help AVFTI?

Our site is free, and we are always in need of people to respond to stories. We also are always looking for volunteers to help with various projects in whatever specialty they have. Our application is on our website!

 

How did AVFTI get involved with Warped Tour?

AVFTI has connected with the music scene since their beginning. Warped Tour has been a partnership that’s in it’s 3rd year. Our first year we toured for part of the tour, and our second we toured the full tour. Over that time we have taught classes to several bands on the tour, handed out lots of hope notes, and connected with tons of people across the country.

 

What do you want victims of sex crimes to know?

You are not gross. You are not dirty. You are not at fault for what happened to you and you are not alone. We are here if you need us.

 

Visit AVFTI at

A Voice for the Innocent

A Voice for the Innocent on Twitter

Homeless Sessions: The Whale

http://themirrorsmagicsights.tumblr.com/post/8508566757/bookspaperscissors-narwhal-sky
http://themirrorsmagicsights.tumblr.com/post/8508566757/bookspaperscissors-narwhal-sky

While I was homeless for a month, there were several thoughts that ran through my head on a daily basis. One theme kept popping up in unexpected places – Jonah and the Whale.

One day, Joel Osteen was talking about Jonah and the whale. I don’t watch Mr. Osteen very often. Okay, I had never watched his sermons before or since. However, that day I listened to his whole speech. Then I went on with the day.

At that time, my days were not filled with inspiration or any sort of happiness -not just because I was within days of sleeping on the streets. On top of the stress of being practically homeless and pregnant, I was still with my abuser.

Apparently, it’s very common for women and children to be homeless after leaving their abuser. I’m not sure how common it is for the abuser and victim to be homeless together.

My abuser and I moved from Ohio to Florida. It was my idea. It was part of a master plan to get my abuser away from my kids and I. I am not normally a liar but I lied in order to get him to go along with this idea of moving to Florida. Actually, I am a terrible liar because I can’t keep a straight face. I was Jonah and hooked this whale with my big fat lie.

Obviously, the plan was not going according to plan. It was not in the plan to end up homeless. I had two problems: no money and an abuser in my face 24/7. I was Jonah and could not get rid of this whale.

The second thing that happened that spoke to me was a woman from a church was giving her testimony. It was for me I had no doubt. Basically, she said, “Leave him. He is not for you.Go home.” I’m paraphrasing but that’s what I heard. It’s what I needed to hear again.

About a month into being homeless, a minister came to the homeless shelter to preach. Guess what his sermon was about that day? Jonah and the Whale. The point of his sermon was that some people have a whale. The whale could be drug addiction, insecurity or whatever is holding you back from really living a good life.

I knew it was time to leave for good. It was time to let go of my whale; otherwise, he was going to suck the last bit of life out of me and our unborn daughter.

I called the domestic violence shelters but they would not accept me because I was not officially a Florida resident yet. So it was time for me to put aside my few scraps of pride and call someone from back home.

My phone contact list consisted of all female names, in case my abuser looked through my phone. The only male on the list was my dad.

I made a phone call to Uncle Vicky the next day. Uncle Vicky was friends with my mom. My mom and I weren’t speaking. I didn’t call her because I was ashamed of being in this relationship. It was also important that I didn’t cry. My abuser was super suspicious of everything, even when it was nothing.

My mom, who is normally a kind, generous person, wanted to run over him with her car and rightly so. He brought nothing but destruction and toxicity to our lives. Also, I’m pretty sure he killed the cat when he threw a baseball at it.

Uncle Vicky and I made arrangements for me to come back to Ohio by the end of the week.

I left the whale at 3 a.m. in February 2008. He called every name in the phone that I left behind at 5 a.m.

I do not regret tricking him. I do not regret leaving him hundreds of miles from his family. The plan was a bit extreme but I would do it all again. It was something I felt truly led to do.

It was the beginning of a new life for me and youngest daughter. I had to rebuild every relationship that I had including my mom, my two older daughters and my dad.¬†Nothing was easy when I returned but I’m glad I came home.

Homeless Sessions: No Shelter

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/38702878021640088/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/38702878021640088/

Recently, I moved into a house. I must have my poker face on because my mom keeps asking me why I’m not more excited.

I didn’t think that I would ever move into a house. In my mind, I believed that my forever and ever housing arrangements would be rentals and subsidized apartments.

A house that my kids and I belonged to was too much to hope for. For a several weeks, I wake up and look around. I still cannot believe that I have been blessed. Is it a dream? Am I going to wake up in a rundown apartment?

About eight years ago at Christmas time, I was homeless. In some ways, I was lucky. I didn’t have to sleep on an actual sidewalk in an actual cardboard box. I did see plenty of people that had no where else to go. I saw too many children that were homeless and hungry. There were a lot of people with mental illnesses that went beyond depression.

I was about two days away from sleeping in my car. My car was also going to get repossessed at any moment. One traffic stop and it would have been gone.

At the time, it was not important to make friends. Of course, I didn’t want to make enemies either. Being homeless was scary. I was always afraid of getting mugged or kidnapped – not by the other homeless people but by the criminal element in the area. One teenager at the shelter had his coat stolen off of his body. The people were trying to kidnap him but he wiggled out of the jacket and ran. I don’t think the muggers were homeless. I just think that they were thieves.

Before I was homeless, I didn’t separate homeless from criminal. I didn’t even think about it. After I was homeless, I understood the difference because I talked to people at the shelter, who were just trying to stay off the streets.

It’s also damned near impossible to get a library card when you don’t have a home. I took a risk by taking a very long walk by myself to get to the library. I really wanted to get on the Internet. Check my email. Maybe send someone an email that could help me more than I could help me.

On my way back to the shelter, a man stopped me. He asked me if I was hungry. It was only a short time until I was going to be hungry. He gave me $10 to eat and wanted me to pay it forward when I could. He didn’t want anything from me in return, except to help somebody else.

Somehow, I managed to get a room at the inn. . . well, the local homeless shelter. I can tell you that I was out of place. I was the unicorn of all unicorns. . .  a single, white, pregnant female unicorn.

I wasn’t totally alone on this adventure. I wished that I was. The abuser came along too.

Thankfully, he is long gone.

Those homeless days are gone too. The memories are still around, which is fine. The memories keep me moving forward.

Part of the reason that I keep doing this blog is that if I want bring a little bit of awareness to a few causes. Life isn’t all about rock concerts and glitter. There are people who still need a lot of help and compassion.

So if you take anything away today, remember that just because someone is homeless doesn’t make them a criminal. There are plenty of crooks in big fancy houses.

P.S. I still have to pay it forward.

This list of things to do to help the homeless is from the National Coalition for the Homeless – just in case you wanted to help.

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/want_to_help/