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SHINE Campaign

 

SHINE Campaign

In the spring of 2019, I worked on a freelance project with 84 Agency for the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network. The SHINE campaign was created to grow support and fundraise for the network’s child advocacy centers, which provide services to children who have been abused or neglected. My part of the project was to create eight stories for social media posts during the campaign. Here are three of those stories.

 
 
Robert Peters (Photo by  The Oberports ).

Robert Peters (Photo by The Oberports).

Robert Peters

Robert Peters loves Captain America. Really loves him. But he doesn’t just look up to Cap. He wants to be like him.

On the wall of his office, he has Captain America’s shield. It’s the same one that five children carried into a courtroom where they had to face the man accused of abusing them. They were brave. They stood in court and told their stories. It was Robert’s first sex crimes jury trial as a prosecutor in Fairmont. And it was a case that he won.

When Robert sees the shield, he thinks of a line that Captain America says in the comic books about how to stand up for what is right: “Plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth and tell the whole world, ‘No, you move.’”

So Robert doesn’t move. Now, he is a senior cyber and economic crime attorney for the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). And he’s started a group, the SHIELD Task Force, that spreads awareness to schools and offers assistance to any student that may be ready to share their story and seek help.

When asked how he sees his purpose, Robert says: “Fight for kids.”

“I want to have fought for kids. I alone will not end abuse, but I want to have been a catalyst — a spark — that was a small part of burning down systems of abuse and injustice.”

Robert has his own story of child abuse that he didn’t tell anyone until he was an adult. He knows that it’s not always safe to talk and that people don’t always want to listen. But he’s seen how children can flourish and plant their feet to fight for themselves when they are supported.

He remembers a note he got from a child whose case he worked on and won.

“She said, ‘Thank you for winning,’” Robert said. “But she also said it wouldn't have mattered.”

She was thanking him for fighting for her.

“And it almost seems like that's more important in a lot of cases — that someone's actually in their corner. Someone actually is willing to fight,” Robert said.

This is why Robert is supporting the SHINE campaign to expand the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network across the state so that every child has someone fighting for them.

Invest in West Virginia's kids so they can #SHINE, make a donation today: wvcan.org/shine

About the SHINE campaign:

Survivors of child sexual abuse can and do lead rich, fulfilling lives. With your support, healing happens, and hope is possible. It’s time to bring the conversation about abuse out of the shadows and into the light. It’s time to #SHINE! Make your contribution today.

Donate Now >> http://bit.ly/SHINEforKIDS

 
Amber Higgins (Photo by  The Oberports ).

Amber Higgins (Photo by The Oberports).

Amber Higgins

Amber Higgins was a child when she told people she was being abused. No one believed her.

When she turned 19, she still wanted to be heard. So she contacted the West Virginia State Police, and Trooper Horne believed her. He would be the first of many.

To prove that her best friend’s father had abused her from the age of 8 to 13, she wore a wire to a meeting with him in a park. He confessed.

It was during the case that she would meet Kim Hawkins, victim’s advocate at the Marion County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

“She essentially became like a mom to me,” Amber said. “When I called, she answered and no matter what I wanted to talk to her about, she was willing to listen and to help.”

Kim did something else for Amber. She helped give her a purpose after it was all over.

Kim invited her to participate in the SHIELD Task Force and share the outline of her story to children in area schools. Amber thought it would be just the one time.

“I don’t think they realized it, but I think that SHIELD saved my life. I was just so lost after the trial. People think that once the trial is done that it’s done and everything’s fine,” Amber said.

Amber told her story. And she kept telling it. She’s a board member of the task force now, and every time the group goes into schools, at least one child reports abuse.

“Part of the reason I joined SHIELD was because they were what I felt I needed when I was in school,” Amber said.

Amber is 27 now and recently applied to West Virginia University. She wants to start college in the fall. It feels strange to say that since she’s not the usual college-going age.

But, she tells herself, it’s never too late.

Amber is supporting the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network SHINE campaign so that children who face her situation will have their own Kim who believes in them.

Make a donation today and be a part of the #SHINE campaign: wvcan.org/shine

About the SHINE campaign:

Survivors of child sexual abuse can and do lead rich, fulfilling lives. With your support, healing happens, and hope is possible. It’s time to bring the conversation about abuse out of the shadows and into the light. It’s time to #SHINE! Make your contribution today.

Donate Now >> http://bit.ly/SHINEforKIDS

 
Cara Knechtly (Photo by  The Oberports ).

Cara Knechtly (Photo by The Oberports).

Cara Knechtly

Graham doesn’t warm up to new things.

Cara Knechtly used to walk her now 4-year-old son past Sacred Heart Grade School in Charleston months, weeks and days in advance of the start of Pre-K. She would point and tell him that this would be his new school. But the actual change was still hard.

“There’s a lot of tears in the morning,” she said.

He has played soccer for more than a year, and he still doesn’t want to go on the field by himself.

Then on a recent weekend, he started Tee-ball.

“I thought ‘Oh gosh, this Tee-ball thing is going to be really difficult because he doesn’t know any of the kids,’” Cara said. “None of his friends from preschool were doing it, and I thought ‘We’re going to be the only parents that are trying to sneak onto the field because he won’t want to go out there without us.’”

But something in the years before this moment led to a change in Graham.

“He held one of the coach’s hands, and he stood out there and by the time they played their game later that afternoon,” she said, “he just walked right down the field like he’d been doing it for years. He felt safe, and he knew we were there and that we wouldn’t put him in a unsafe situation.”

Becoming a mother to Graham, and Colin, 2, changed all of her feelings. Since the time before they could roll over, Cara has been watching them and cheering them on to their next phase.

“Every other conversation or milestone you’re trying to help them with, you wonder ‘What moment is that leading up to?’”

Cara had always wanted to be a mom. And that dream is realized with her children, whose names she wears on a necklace. But the love she’s gained goes beyond the children in her home.

One day she witnessed a West Virginia Child Advocacy Network presentation describing how one in 10 children are sexually abused before they turn 18.

“I was just a new mom, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, there’s kids out there that aren’t going to have someone in their lives all the time. They aren’t going to always have the best cheerleader every step of the way.’”

Cara is supporting the #SHINE campaign for the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network where she volunteers because she wants every child to have a cheerleader.

Join Cara, make a donation to build the network of Child Advocacy Centers in West Virginia: wvcan.org/shine

About the SHINE campaign:

Survivors of child sexual abuse can and do lead rich, fulfilling lives. With your support, healing happens, and hope is possible. It’s time to bring the conversation about abuse out of the shadows and into the light. It’s time to #SHINE! Make your contribution today.

Donate Now >> http://bit.ly/SHINEforKIDS