The people I work with are incredible. They are friendly, dedicated, extremely driven, and while everyone is running around doing 3 or more things at once, they still manage to stay organized and cohesive. Now a part of such a group of people, I’ve been busy jumping from one thing to another: working on the Dear Parents campaign, editing manuals, organizing fundraisers, attending talks and meetings, planning activities for kids, etc. It’s been a bit hectic at times, but at the end of the day, it’s satisfying thinking of all the things I’m accomplishing.
Prior to working in NOCAC, I had little experience, exposure, or knowledge about child abuse. As far as I knew, child abuse could be physical, sexual, or psychological, and that it plays a role in developmental problems. I’m ashamed to say, but in my mind, those who suffered from child abuse were the withdrawn or socially awkward kids. Not long after I started at the center, I realized how narrow-minded I was. Did you know that 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18? And this doesn't even include physical abuse or neglect. As something so prevalent in our society, child abuse poses a serious threat. But if it was more common than I thought it was, why do I not notice the victims?
The children that visited NOCAC were like any other child. If I had met them in any other setting, I can say for a fact that I would not be able to tell that they were victims of child abuse. Despite their awful experiences, these kids are… well, kids. Some were shy, some were outgoing and loud; some enjoyed running around indefinitely while others enjoyed drawing and watching TV shows. Like any other kid, these children still enjoy games and toys. And like other children, they still have their innocence.
When I first started working, I struggled to think about how I should approach these kids and how I should act, considering what they recently went through. But during these past weeks, getting a chance to listen to them and interact with them, I realize that what they want is to be treated as normal kids. Having the opportunity to keep them company as they wait for their medical exams or forensic interviews, I gained appreciation for what I do, whether it’s playing with them and letting them temporarily forget about their worries and burdens, or working behind the scenes to increase the support and awareness for our cause.
These past weeks have been really fulfilling, and I have been learning so much about the topic of child abuse. I can to New Orleans thinking that I was going to serve the community, but I didn't realize how much there was to learn before I can comfortably say that I'm actually providing service. I hope that what I do this summer can help dispel the common misconceptions of child abuse that I myself once believed, and make a worthy contribution to NOCAC's cause. I look forward to the remaining weeks and plan to make the most of it!