One of our newest nonprofit fundholders, Mosaic Georgia, is a sexual assault and children’s advocay center based in Duluth. While we want to share the story of why they became a fundholder with us, we also want to highlight the very important work they are doing. We were able to have a Q&A with Mosaic’s Executive Director Marina Peed. Here’s a glimpse into Mosaic, as told by Marina.
CFNEG: What are some important stats our readers need to know about sexual assault?
Marina: I know it is an uncomfortable topic to think about, much less talk about. But sexual harm and abuse is like humidity – it’s everywhere. We see and hear about it on TV, in movies, video games, music, and social media. Despite the awareness, social conditions keep it hidden in plain sight throughout our community. There is still a lot of blame and shame toward people who disclose their experienced sexual assault (most often by someone they know). The risks to their credibility, reputation, emotional well-being, academic or employment activities, and family/friend connections are real. We want them to call us even if they do not want to report (24/7 line: 866-900-6019).
Our local experience is pretty consistent with national statistics. Last year (during COVID) we served over 2,000 victims of sexual abuse/assault. As a Children’s Advocacy Center and Sexual Assault Center, we care for people of all ages. Our client demographics match our Gwinnett County residents.
Mosaic Georgia is the only dual center in the United States that provides all these services: forensic medical care (“sexual assault kits”), forensic interviews, advocacy, counseling and support groups, and civil legal services. Our clients/patients and their loved ones get the support they need without going from place to place. The pandemic added indescribable layers of distress to people we served last year through today.
Almost two-thirds of the clients we see are age 17 and younger. Over one-third are under the age of 12. Who is doing this abuse to children? 41 percent of the abusers were other minors, from age 10 to 17. They are most often a family member, friend, or acquaintance. We grown-ups must move past feelings of awkwardness and equip kids with the developmentally appropriate and medically accurate information to counteract the messages they receive from society. Kids who develop the knowledge and skills to respect and protect themselves and others from peer pressure, coercion, and exploitation reduce the risks of committing or experiencing sexual abuse, assault, and early sexual activity.
CFNEG: What happens to kids (and adults) when they don’t have something like Mosaic in their lives?
Marina: It may surprise readers to know that most kids and adults who have experienced sexual harm do not report what happened to them to police, teachers, friends or centers like ours (estimates range from 70-90 percent, depending on demographic group). A big reason many do not disclose is because the person(s) who caused the harm are part of their inner circle – family / friend / community. Society places the burden on the victim to “not cause trouble” by calling out the bad behavior.
Yet the harms of sexual abuse or assault lasts well beyond the initial physical and emotional experience. We know a lot more about the neurobiological effects sexual trauma has on the brain. The body remembers. People cope in various ways: try to block it out of their mind; diminish what happened (it wasn’t that bad, it’s not worth the hassle); self-blame; behave in ways that are self-destructive; or withdraw from life. When children or adolescents experience this type of abuse, they are at much higher risk for future victimizations, chronic medical conditions, cognitive impairment, depression and anxiety. These conditions impact their ability to learn and grow and achieve their fullest potential.
The good news is that with the appropriate support, the worst thing that happened needn’t prevent you from dreaming and achieving greatness. Mosaic Georgia is expanding its focus from acute crisis response to wholeness and healing opportunities at our new Mosaic Resilience Center.
CFNEG: Is there a story you can share about the difference Mosaic Georgia has made in someone’s life?
Marina: First, I want to be clear that we value the privacy and confidentiality of the people who entrust us with their care. I can share examples that we’ve done several times.
Since most reported assaults do not proceed through the criminal justice system to a plea deal or trial and conviction, we help clients put the pieces back together in many ways, one step at a time. You know, I worked in affordable housing for 16 years and believe everyone deserves a safe, clean, peaceful home to rest and recharge. We’ve helped clients negotiate with their landlords when they did not feel safe because the assault occurred in their home or the perpetrator lives nearby. Parents have thanked us, sharing that their child finally sleeps through the night and no longer wakes up in terror. Their behavior and outlook improves when they aren’t constantly reminded of what happened. Others found healing through a Title IX process when the person who raped them acknowledged the harm and took actions to learn from it and promised to not do it to anyone else. Parents in our parent support group thank us for the ability to check in with other parents who are going through the same issues with their kids in a confidential, judgement-free space. We do them virtually and are looking to add parent groups in languages other than English.
CFNEG: What do you want others to know about Mosaic Georgia?
Marina: I’d like parents, partners, and people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities to know that Mosaic Georgia is a calm, safe and confidential place. Kids and adults come to us after they’ve disclosed, or someone suspects, they’ve experienced or witnessed sexual abuse/assault, trafficking or other interpersonal violence. Here, they are safe, cared for, and have confidential advocates who will listen and help them prepare for their next steps.
We can also help adults who experienced sexual violence but aren’t ready/don’t want to involve law enforcement. Forensic medical exams can be done up to 120 hours after a sexual assault. All of our services are free of charge and confidential. We will safely store the evidence and offer support as the client works through the initial stages of distress and considers their options.
CFNEG: What is your dream for Mosaic Georgia?
Marina: I dream in possibilities. Mosaic Georgia will be a convenor for courageous conversations that lead to strength and restorative healing. It will continue to be an innovator in the field of sexual assault/abuse victim services, bringing creative alternatives and resources, in cooperation with community partners. In my dream, we will have a mosaic of services and activities that engage people of all ages and backgrounds to help them connect to their whole selves (mind, body, spirit). Together, we will eradicate the shame and stigma surrounding sexual abuse and celebrate healthy, age-appropriate interpersonal relationships.
CFNEG: How did you hear about the Community Foundation?
Marina: I learned about the Community Foundation when I moved to Gwinnett in 1992. The people involved then were helpful, along with the Gwinnett Coalition, in creating a nonprofit housing organization that served the county for 20 years. The Community Foundation has grown and evolved with the community in so many wonderful ways over the years.
CFNEG: Why did you decide to become a fundholder at the Community Foundation?
Marina: This was a dream when I became the executive director three years ago. As a 35-year-old charitable organization, Mosaic Georgia is legally a community asset. And we plan to be strong and of service for decades to come. We hope our fund will grow, through donations and investment growth, so we can continue to serve the children, families, and adults who need us. The Community Foundation has an excellent track record of managing community assets, and that allows us to focus on our areas of expertise.
CFNEG: How would you describe your experience opening your fund?
Marina: The hardest part was saving the money to open the fund! Opening our fund was easy-peasy. Randy met with our board’s finance committee to explain how the Community Foundation works with nonprofit fundholders and answered a lot of questions. The agreement is clear and easy to understand and Margaret and Britt made the process seamless. The online portal is very user-friendly.
CFNEG: What would you say to another nonprofit/individual if they asked you why they should also become a fundholder at the Community Foundation?
Marina: Start small if you must but start today. Tomorrow never arrives. In addition to investing in our future (the investment returns look good!), our presence on the Community Foundation’s website may inspire donors or other foundations to learn more about us and support this important work. It opens doors and conversations that can lead to even greater community impact.
If the community is an organism, the Community Foundation is in the circulatory system. It reaches all aspects of our community, bringing attention and resources to areas that need support. For individuals or families with generous hearts, I can’t think of a better way to engage with cool people, multiply goodwill and keep our community strong.
CFNEG: How can others help Mosaic Georgia?
Marina: We welcome and rely on help in many forms including direct services, community events, pro-bono services, fund- & friend-raising events, and special projects. Our website has more information: www.mosaicgeorgia.org. Stay tuned for our 2021 Mosaic Masterpieces event this fall!
For those who like to focus on direct services, we have two initiatives in need of private financial support:
- Crisis Support & Empowerment Fund (emergency needs – shelter, food, medications, transportation, clothing);
- Mosaic Resilience Center programs (underwrite the new location, healing arts therapies and peer support)