Being an Advocate
by Donna Blood, Family Advocate, Marion County Child Advocacy Center
“I have different hats; I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’m a human being, I’m an artist, and hopefully I’m an advocate. All of those plates are things I spin all the time.” ~ Annie Lennox
I’m a family advocate at the Marion County CAC. It is my job to be the first face that a child and his family see when they come into our CAC. That comes with the responsibility of making that family, who has possibly been devastated by abuse, feel they are safe and among professionals who care about them. We are there to listen and guide them through one of the most difficult experiences they will ever have as a family: the possible sexual or physical abuse of their child.
Did I say that I love my job? I do. Some of us were born to be helpers—to comfort, to listen, to guide, and nurture. Do those traits sound familiar? Like a mother taking care of her children? Well, I think family advocacy is much like being a mother. It is a continuation of the best job I ever had, which was raising my kids. Only, for the families that we serve at the CAC, there is much more at stake.
Perhaps their family is being torn apart by the crime of parental sexual abuse. A mother’s 14-year-old daughter finally told her that it has been happening for years, and mom cannot believe that the father of her children could possibly do such a horrendous thing to their child. Perhaps the perpetrator is mom’s boyfriend who has been supporting the family, but now her child is reporting he has been touching her while mom is at work. The child feels responsible for telling and destroying the financial stability of the family. Perhaps it is a young boy stopping his father from hitting his mother, and the child ends up with two black eyes. As a CAC advocate, these scenarios are all too familiar.
I am a woman, and I am a human being more than anything. I believe in treating my families the way I would want to be treated if I walked in their shoes. Sometimes that means the difficult task of withholding judgment while guiding and supporting a mother on her journey to believe and protect her daughter from her very own husband. Sometimes it’s helping a family find shelter from domestic violence and connecting them with people who can help keep their family safe and get back on their feet again. It can be attending family court or a criminal trial because you have become the person the families turn to for support and comfort. And it is always connecting child victims and their family with healing therapy.
I see my work as an extension of my core belief that our human family must stand together and take care of each other. How awesome is it that I get a paycheck for that? But the long-term payment is the satisfaction that I get from knowing I have simply helped another.