CAC

Hiring: Prevention Trainer

Join the Prevention Team at the Children's Advocacy Center as a Prevention Trainer. You will have the opportunity to make your community healthier, work directly with kids to keep them safe, and enjoy flexible hours and a "teacher's schedule", all at a competitive hourly rate. Please submit your resume and references to ckiger@cac-ottawa.org. We will receive applications until the position is filled.

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'I trusted them': The pain of sexual abuse

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MARIE HAVENGA • MAY 11, 2019 AT 9:00 AM

mhavenga@grandhaventribune.com

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Sasha Neulinger's childhood pain still lingers. Family members, people he trusted, betrayed and violated him.

Neulinger, now 29, said he was sexually abused by two uncles and a cousin as a child growing up in Pennsylvania.

“It's been a real journey for me as a survivor, but also as a human being,” Neulinger told a packed ballroom at the Spring Lake Country Club on Friday afternoon during a fundraiser for Holland's Ed and Nancy Hanenburg Children's Advocacy Center.

Child sexual abuse is one of the greatest social epidemics of our time, according to Neulinger, who last week debuted an autobiographical documentary film at the Tribeca Film Festival. “Rewind” chronicles his life as a survivor of multi-generational child sexual abuse. He said that, according to current statistics, one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys will be sexually abused before age 18.

Neulinger sprinkled home-movie clips and television news broadcasts into his presentation.

“At 3 years old, I was the happiest kid on the planet,” he said. “I felt safe, supported, and felt free to express myself. Unfortunately, that joy and happiness was violently interrupted.”

At age 4, he said his uncle sexually abused him for the first time.

“I only knew what my uncle was doing to me was extremely painful,” Neulinger said. “I thought I was awful and that I must have done something to deserve it. At that moment, the world became a dark place and I felt dirty.”

But the abuse didn’t stop there. For the next four years, he said two uncles and a cousin raped him, often during family gatherings in his own home.

“Uncle Howard said to me, 'If you tell anyone, I'll kill you.' And I believed it,” he said. “With each rape, I felt increasingly numb. My sense of self-worth, my identity, my ability to see beauty in the world was deteriorating rapidly. At some level, I believed I deserved this.”

One day, when his cousin Stewart summoned him to a room in the attic, Neulinger saw his little sister exiting the room, tears rolling down her face.

“It was at that moment that I finally realized what my abusers were doing was wrong,” he said. “My little sister didn't deserve to be hurt like that. And maybe, just maybe, I didn't either.”

Neulinger approached his mother, telling her about the “secret club” that was doing bad things. His mom asked his sister to draw pictures.

“My sister drew pictures that no 4-year-old child should know how to draw,” he said.

The experiences carved a deep hole in Neulinger's soul. He suffered from insomnia, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. He jumped out of a moving car in an attempt to kill himself.

He began to see a psychiatrist, and eventually revealed his deep, dark secrets.

“I was 8 years old at the time of disclosure,” Neulinger said. “I felt this huge sense of relief. For the next nine years of my life, I was in and out of courtrooms testifying against all three of my abusers.”

In those days, Neulinger had to travel to physicians offices, detective offices, Child Protective Services and various other government buildings, telling his story over and over, dozens of times. It was traumatizing, and tiring, he said.

His Uncle Larry Nevison was sentenced to 14-22 years in prison, and served 11 years. Stewart asked for a plea deal and served 11 months in prison.

Uncle Howard Nevison, a prominent Manhattan Jewish cantor, used defense attorneys to drag out the legal process, filing multiple motions over many years. After a plea bargain, Howard was sentenced to 12 years probation, when Neulinger was 16.

“After four years of abuse and nine years of prosecution, I was ready to move forward with my life,” Neulinger said. “I was unwilling to make my entire young life about prosecution. He only got 12 years of probation, but the multi-generational abuse was over.

Neulinger had learned that his Uncle Larry, father and others were sexually abused.

“After 13 years of fighting to get my life back, the war was finally over,” he said. “It was a triumphant moment.”

The legal minds who helped prosecute Neulinger's case reached out to him to set up a Children's Advocacy Center in his home county. Like many similar advocacy centers across the country, including the one in Holland, it's a child-friendly space where kids can share their stories, undergo forensic medical exams, experience play, art and psycho-therapy, all under one roof. There's no running from place to place, retelling the story dozens of times, like Neulinger had to do. And there's no cost to families.

“Everything is under one roof with access to justice, physical, emotional and mental healing,” Neulinger said.

For more information on volunteering or donating to the Ed and Nancy Hanenburg Children's Advocacy Center, call 616-393-6123, visit cac-ottawa.org/prevention 

Prevention Program Expansion


ESPAÑOL ABAJO

Hello! My name is Cassandra Kiger, and I am the new Prevention and Diversity Director at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Ottawa County. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to fill this role and to join an already amazing team.

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Ottawa County currently has the highest rates of reported child sexual abuse in the state. I believe, along with my teammates, that no child should ever have to become a survivor of sexual abuse. I believe that every one of us has within us the power to protect children in our lives and in our community and give them every opportunity to thrive. It is my job to expand on the amazing prevention work that is happening at the CAC and ensure that every adult and child in our community combines their power with a set of simple, straight-forward tools to reduce and eliminate child sexual abuse. If you’re interested in learning more about the tools you can add to your power, visit our prevention page at http://www.cac-ottawa.org/prevention/, or register for our Darkness To Light training at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D2Lregistration.

As the Diversity Director, I am working hard to take a close look at the work that we do and to listen well to the community to ensure that every person or family who walks through our doors feels valued, understood and empowered. We recognize that many individuals walk through our doors during some of the most frightening and painful times in their entire lives; and we also acknowledge that child abuse may not be the only difficult thing those individuals are experiencing. Therefore, we want to ensure that this is not our CAC, but that this is the community’s CAC, and that every member of our community is given power and voice to receive the best possible care that we can offer, and that every community and staff member can bring their whole self to the CAC. We strive to do this work well every day, but we are always striving to do better. 

One way that we are working towards this is through language access. Spanish is the second most spoken language in our county, and we are transitioning our materials and resources to reflect this. All our adult and youth prevention trainings are now provided in-person in Spanish, the website is slowly being translated so that Spanish speaking members of our community can learn about services before they arrive, and we are working to provide more in-person interpretation services for Spanish speaking community members.

Lastly, I am new to the Holland/Ottawa County community, and I would love to be able to meet you and learn from you. Feel free to contact me at ckiger@cac-ottawa.org, or 616-393-6123.

¡Hola! Yo me llamo Cassandra Kiger, y yo soy la nueva Directora de Prevención y Diversidad en el Centro de Abogacía de los Niños. Lo considero un honor tener la oportunidad de trabajar aquí e involucrarme con un equipo maravilloso.

Hoy en día el Condado de Ottawa tiene los índices más altos del abuso sexual de los niños reportado en todo el estado de Michigan. Creo yo, junto con todo el equipo, que ningún niño debe tener que sobrevivir el abuso. Yo creo que cada uno de nosotros tiene el poder para proteger a los niños en nuestras vidas y en nuestra comunidad, para que ellos tengan la oportunidad para prosperar. Es el trabajo mío crecer y aumentar los programas de prevención que ya tenemos en el CAN y asegurar que cada adulto y joven combine su poder con herramientas simples y lógicas para reducir y eliminar el abuso de niños. Si usted tiene interés en aprender más sobre las herramientas que se pueden aumentar su poder, visita el enlace de nuestra página de prevención en http://www.cac-ottawa.org/prevention/, o regístrese para un entrenamiento Darkness To Light en https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D2Lregistration.

En mi rol como la Directora de Diversidad, trabajo fuertemente en repasar nuestro trabajo y escuchar a la comunidad para asegurar que cada persona o familia que pasa por nuestras puertas se siente valorada, entendida y empoderada. Reconocemos que muchas personas pasan por nuestras puertas durante algunos de los días más miedosos y dolorosos en sus vidas; sin embargo, también entendemos que pueda ser que el abuso no es la única dificultad que llevan. Por eso, queremos asegurar que el CAN no pertenece solo a nosotros, sino a toda la comunidad, y que cada miembro de la comunidad reciba el poder y pueda usar su propia voz para recibir el mejor cuidado posible; incluso que cada miembro de la comunidad y cada empleado se puede llevar su ser entero al CAN. Nos esforzamos en llegar a esta meta todos los días, pero siempre podemos luchar más.

Una manera en que estamos trabajando hacía esta meta es por el idioma. El idioma segundo más hablado en el condado es el español, y hoy en día estamos trabajando para que los materiales y recursos que ofrecemos lo refleja. Cada entrenamiento de prevención para los adultos y los jóvenes ya se ofrece en español, poco a poco estamos traduciendo el sitio de web en el español para que los hispanohablantes en la comunidad también se pueden aprender sobre nuestros servicios antes de que llegan, y estamos trabajando para proveer más interpretación en español en persona para los servicios que ofrecemos.

Por fin, acabo de llegar en el área de Holland/Ottawa, y a mí me gustaría conocerle a usted y aprender de usted. Me puede contactar por correo electrónico en ckiger@cac-ottawa.org o por teléfono en 616-393-6123.

 

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

We All Can Play a Part in Building Community, Building Hope

The CAC will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on April 14th to kick off a building expansion and capital campaign that will nearly double the Center’s current footprint. The goal of the expansion is to increase space to meet the growing demands for innovative treatment therapy, expand resources for children and families, and increase prevention education and outreach throughout the community. 

April is nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Children’s Advocacy Center encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Ottawa County a better place for children and families. By ensuring that parents and community members have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help prevent child abuse by making meaningful connections and providing education and awareness.  The CAC has partnered with local businesses and municipalities to help raise awareness by displaying banners, hosting pinwheel gardens, and decorating parks with blue ribbons as a visual reminder to help protect children and in support for those who have been victims of abuse.

“April is a time to celebrate the important role that communities play in protecting children and strengthening families,” said Executive Director Darcy Komejan. “Everyone’s participation is critical. Focusing on ways to connect with families is the best thing our community can do to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. We are thrilled that our groundbreaking ceremony and capital campaign begin at the same time that our community is coming together to support Child Abuse Prevention Month. To learn more about the programs, resources offered by the CAC please call 616-393-6123 or visit cac-ottawa.org.

We would like to thank the following businesses downtown Holland for displaying Pinwheel Gardens to help raise awareness about child sexual abuse:

Holland Peanut Store, Cranes in the City, Orange Leaf Yogurt, Peachwave, Hops, Crust 54, Subs N More, Globe, Bores Shoes, Gliks (women), Gliks (men), Home, Chicos, Trends on 8th, Merle Norman, Design Works Interiors, 8th Street Grill, JosABanks, Engeti Salon, Sand Castle,Blue Veranda, Teermans , Fustinis, 8th St. Salon, Seasoned Home, Karla's Place, Francescas, Readers World, JB & Me, and the Bridge.

There will be large blue bows in Centennial Park in Holland as well as banners located throughout the county.

You can help raise awareness and protect children by purchasing our limited edition Keep Calm and Protect Children Prevention Month t-shirts here: https://goodink.com/keepcalmprotectchildren or you could win a shirt by taking a selfie by one of our pinwheel gardens located in businesses throughout Holland and tag #hollandpinwheels2017 and uploading it to Facebook and we will randomly select one selfie to win a Keep Clam and Protect Children shirt!