Michael D. Hoffman, Founder
I was invited to join the Board of Directors of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois in 2013. I had reached out to the Executive Director of PCA Illinois, Mr. Roy Harley, through Jennifer Samartano, the Regional Child Abuse Prevention Specialist in Northern Illinois. I wanted to volunteer to foster the goals of preventing child abuse or neglect wherever children are. I am not in the social service industry. I am the owner of a small orthopedic product distribution company, but I am also a childhood sexual abuse survivor dedicated to protecting children from my childhood suffering. As I began working with Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois to do just that, I had no idea how fulfilling that desire would take shape while serving on the Board.
One aspect of Board service is helping to facilitate the annual Prevent Child Abuse Illinois Statewide Conference. At my first conference, I was a greeter, welcoming attendees at the door and directing people to various seminar rooms. I was impressed by the fact there were a lot of people attending. Once my job was completed, I was able to sit in on certain seminars. This being my first conference, I was awestruck at the variety of speakers. Topics included keeping our kids safe on their devices, child welfare and human trafficking, authentic parent engagement, home visiting programs, caring for the caregiver and much more.
There I was, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, sitting among good people who work for child welfare agencies across the state, hearing presentations from experts on child safety. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I actually left the building at lunchtime and sat in my car and cried. I realized that I didn’t have any of these types of people, whose sole responsibility is to care for and protect children, in my life during my childhood. My parents, and my school at the time, didn’t have access to the programs and resources, which are considered to be the best practices of child safety, to protect me and other children from my abuser. I didn’t have anyone in my life who could actually hear the pain and sadness of a little boy who felt alone and didn’t know what to do or say about what my abuser was doing to me.
I cried at the realization of my lost innocence of my youth. Those were tears of sadness. I consoled myself with the full knowledge and understanding that even though I was not protected as a child, we have good people in our communities whose sole job is to protect children now. We have best practices of child safety programs and resources readily available to all. Also, we now have trusted adults who can listen to the cries of a little boy or little girl, hear their pain, and act to protect them from harm.
I dried my tears. I left the car happy in my decision to join PCA Illinois. I was also so happy to go back into the conference and surround myself with good people. It seemed healthy and therapeutic for me to go back. I was and I remain filled with hope that no other child has to endure what was imposed upon me. I am grateful to be associated with PCA – Illinois and I hope telling my story can help break the silence which surrounds childhood sexual abuse in our society.
For the full issue in which this article appears, click here.