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How We Make A Difference

ChicagoCAC’s work changes the lives of children and families who need it. It can be hard to find ways to share such intensely private and upsetting stories, but doing so helps people like you understand the impact we can have on those who’ve experienced sexual abuse. Here are four stories – with names changed and no identifying details shared – that illustrate how our work helps children heal and return to growing, dreaming, and thriving.

Mimi and Mac: A Helping Paw

When eight-year-old Mimi came to ChicagoCAC, she was sobbing so much she couldn’t talk. During her interview, she kept breaking down in tears. Then, a detective suggested that our facility dog Mac might help put her at ease.

He was right. Mimi got down on the floor with Mac, petting and hugging him. Slowly, she relaxed. Mac placed a paw gently on her arm.

“I don’t want to tell, but I know I have to, I just have to,” Mimi told Mac.

And she began to talk about what happened. When the interviewer asked Mimi if she could identify her abuser with a photo, Mimi – with Mac sitting on the couch next to her – said yes.

When Mac is part of a child’s forensic interview, their disclosure rate is 10% higher. He’s an important part of ChicagoCAC’s team.

Grace and the Rainbow: Feeling Your Feelings

Seven-year-old Grace was playing with Sarah, the Child Life Specialist, who helped her feel comfortable before and during her medical exam. Grace was feeling much less nervous after working with Sarah, and now they were working on a craft activity about feelings.

As they colored in a rainbow, Sarah asked Grace if she wanted to write out some of her feelings in the raindrops below the rainbow.

Grace wrote “sad” and “mad,” which took Sarah by surprise, as Grace had just been laughing. So, Sarah asked Grace about it.

“I feel those feelings a lot,” Grace admitted. “But right now, I’m happy.”

“It’s ok to feel all of those feelings. And sometimes we can feel them all at the same time,” Sarah said. “It’s important to share how we feel. If those emotions ever get too big, it’s a good time to tell someone. I’m glad you could talk about them today.”

ChicagoCAC is one of the only children’s advocacy centers with a child life team helping children feel comfortable when they visit.

Tanya Finds Her Talents: Letting Kids Be Kids Again

Laura first met Tanya, an eleven-year-old survivor of trafficking, in a residential facility where connecting proved to be tough. Since the facility was often on Covid lockdown, Laura, a human trafficking specialist, and Tanya relied on phone calls to get to know each other.

Tanya told Laura about her love of haircare. She had even started doing hair for peers and staff at the facility. Laura collaborated with our child life team to add culturally appropriate hair products to our Amazon Wishlist, and many donated items went to Tanya’s budding salon career.

“One of our goals is to give these kids back their childhood—or in Tanya’s case, give her a childhood in the first place,” says Laura.

Tanya opened up further, telling Laura about her dreams and singing songs she’d written, and when she traveled to Florida to start a new life, Laura was there to help her settle in.

“During one of the worst times of her life, I was a person that she could lean on,” Laura says. “And I will be there—if she needs it—to make sure she remembers that I am a source of support for her and that my support for her never ended.”

Every case at ChicagoCAC is reviewed for signs of human trafficking so we can provide intervention and support if needed.

Aidan Feels Better Now: The Power of Therapy

When seven-year-old Aidan comes to ChicagoCAC’s Family Hope Center each week, he stuffs his pockets and backpack full of toys and books. He’s eager to show his therapist all of his favorite things.

Aidan loves school and daycare. He comforts his big brother, Terry, whenever he cries. He loves getting attention from his mom, Talia. And he can’t wait to come to therapy, because he is just so excited to start feeling better.

Aidan was abused at a very young age by his dad, who also abused his mom, and he needs help feeling less anxious and scared. In his very first mental health appointment, he asked his therapist whether he could start telling her everything that had happened before she could even tell him her name.

If he could just get everything out, Aidan thought, he’d feel much better.

In therapy, Aidan learns how to calm down by counting his fingers, one by one, and how to remind himself that he’s safe before he goes to sleep. He’s reminded that his kindness and sense of humor are part of the things that make him a good person. He’s closer to his mom than ever before. And he’s on his way to healing, and breaking the cycle of abuse for generations to come.

All of ChicagoCAC’s services, including mental health treatment, are provided free of charge to children and their families.

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