Firecracker Foundation Offers Daylong Seminar on Child Sexual Abuse

Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 7:47 am
Ann Kammerer

Above: East Lansing High School and Tashmica Torok of The Firecracker Foundation

A local nonprofit will host an educational panel and discussion for parents, guardians and staff of the East Lansing School District on how to prevent, identify and support children and families who have experienced sexual abuse and trauma.

"Child Sexual Abuse: Prevention and Response" will take place Saturday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at East Lansing High School. The Firecracker Foundation organized the daylong seminar with support from the East Lansing Public Schools' Mental Health Advisory Committee.

"This particular panel is one of our first community engagement activities designed to provide adults with access to professionals who can answer questions they may have," says Tashmica Torok, founder of the Firecracker Foundation. "This is part of our next level of work to protect children and help prevent childhood sexual abuse."

Panelists will define sexual abuse and trauma, outline its effect on children and families, explore facts and stigma, and provide guidance on how to report, advocate in medical situations, and take proper steps when incidents are disclosed. The panel includes members of law enforcement, the legal community, medical professions and non-profit service organizations. Alaini Letang from WILX TV-10 will facilitate.

The Firecracker Foundation was founded in 2013 to provide holistic healing services to child survivors of sexual trauma under the age of 18 and their families in the tri-county area of Mid-Michigan. Torok says the idea for the prevention and response seminar originated with Erin Graham, vice president of the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education. Graham says she called Torok in January as impact statements in the Larry Nassar sexual assault case shook the East Lansing community and brought renewed attention to the issue of childhood sexual abuse.

"Because we are so close to MSU, there is a direct connection and effect on our community," says Graham of the Larry Nassar case. "I listened to a lot of the impact statements and was deeply inspired by the bravery of these women. It also became very clear that many of the survivors had or continue to live in our community. Some have even attended our schools."

Graham says she was motivated to come forward with the idea for the panel based on her work at MSU. She teaches women's studies—including a course that examines sexual violence against women and children. Graham was also driven by her personal history as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

"My personal and professional experiences caused me to speak out and to help organize this event. Tashmica Torok and the Firecracker Foundation have been incredibly generous with their time and expertise, and I am so grateful for their willingness to bring this training to our community,” she says. “This is about empowering people. It's about facing an issue head on instead of hiding from the shame and stigma. But ultimately, it's about creating a community that is safer for our children. That's the goal."

Graham illustrated the importance of understanding sexual abuse by applying national statistics to the local level. Given that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of childhood sexual abuse, Graham estimates that potentially 360 female students and 90 male students district-wide have experienced or will experience childhood sexual abuse.

"Knowledge is power," Graham says. "I'm very excited about the topics this panel will cover. There are so many feelings of powerlessness out there right now. This panel is one way to address that."

"Child Sexual Abuse: Prevention and Response" will be held Saturday, March 10, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at East Lansing High School. Lunch will be provided. The event is led by the Firecracker Foundation with support from the East Lansing Public Schools' Mental Health Advisory Committee. Space is limited to 65 adults and the event is free. To register or for more information, go the event page here, and click "Get Tickets."