I recently joined the CALICO board and it should go without saying that I am truly honored and humbled to be in the company of so many extraordinary people who have devoted their time and energy to helping bring justice to the lives of abused children. But that's not why I joined CALICO.
We fondly refer to the kids whom we help as "CALICO kids" and each year, we help hundreds and hundreds of kids find their voices and ultimately put an end to the abuses they suffer. Their stories are both heartbreaking and touching. There is so much gratification in knowing that we've made a difference in their lives and futures. But what is just as inspiring is when those CALICO kids use their own stories as vehicles for awareness and prevention in the community - the CALICO kids are striking back against abuse! Emely's story is just one of numerous examples. Like Emely, I have my own story of abuse. And if Emely could find the strength and inspiration to tell her story and use it to help others, how could I not step up to the mic? Here’s my story...
I was born in a very poor, rural part of Vietnam right after the war and in such a 3rd world place, basic human rights were non-existent. A girl didn't have the right to go to school or be literate, and she certainly didn't have a right against the boys or men who wanted to abuse her. In fact, it wasn't even seen as abuse. It was almost seen as a girl's utility (one of the reasons why girls existed in the first place). I escaped Vietnam at the age of 4; came into the U.S. as a refugee and settled in the Bay Area. As much as America was the land of the free and home of the brave, it was no safe haven from people who prey on young girls and I saw a cycle of attempted abuses throughout my childhood. When the abuse or attempted abuse happened to me, there was no CALICO, no law enforcement, no justice brought to my offenders. Each time, the courageous women in my family came to my rescue when I chose to speak up and they themselves had all been victims of abuse. Such abuse had been engrained in our way of life for many generations.
So why do I tell this story and why now? My past is far behind me and I have since become a very confident, passionate, optimistic, fearless, mentally healthy, achievement-oriented wife to an incredible man and a working mother of 2 amazing girls (It's a mouthful, I know). Most people would perceive me as being someone who probably had it easy or had a textbook upbringing. My past is buried and I never spoke of it because it was no one's business but my own. What a CALICO kid, such as Emely, made me realize is that in being silent, I wasn't helping to save precious lives from abuse and I wasn't using myself as an example for kids who had suffered abuse to let them know that goodness can come out of darkness.
So I want to impress two things upon you while I have your attention...
Though I've come out of many different adversities seemingly unscathed, and arguably a better person because of those adversities, not every child who suffers abuse achieves this outcome. The sooner we can stop the abuse, the more futures we can salvage.
Your voice is your weapon against abuse and you owe it to everyone around you to wield it whole-heartedly with all of your might!
A CALICO kid helped me to find my voice. Hopefully this has inspired you to find yours!
To support Janice, or CALICO, in the upcoming Oakland Running Festival click here. All money raised supports CALICO’s important work of bringing justice and healing to the lives of abused children.