This week we’re looking at local organizations working to end sexual and domestic violence in a series called WKAR Connects. Our hope is that by highlighting these groups, we can connect our listeners who need help to the resources they need.
Today WKAR’s Katie Cook talks with Tashmica Torok, Founder and Executive Director of The Firecracker Foundation. Torok begins by explaining what services the organization offers.
"The Firecracker Foundation provides mental health therapy, trauma sensitive yoga, and pediatric medical advocacy services for children under the age of 18 who have had any experience with sexual trauma. So that can be anything like sexual harassment, exploitation, child pornography, and sexual assault. And we serve their families as well, so anyone who is a parent or guardian of a child who experienced sexual trauma in the tri-county area our services are free and anyone can access them by just calling us and we’ll get them in."
Torok’s decision to start the Firecracker Foundation in 2013 was deeply personal.
"I am a survivor of child sexual abuse and when I turned 30 I went into therapy. And it was the first time I had a therapist, or anyone, open a book and show me, number one, the definition of sexual trauma. And it was a chart and it said severe, less severe, and almost everything on there had happened to me. And then the other chart was consequences, so PTSD, insomnia, addictions, eating disorders, all of these things. And it blew my mind, I just didn’t have that information. And I started to have questions about the kids who were struggling and how we were serving them. So I started to envision an organization that would give kids what I didn’t have."
I asked her how it felt to watch the Nassar scandal unfold as someone who not only serves the needs of survivor in this community, but who is a survivor herself.
"As a survivor it’s always draining and exhausting to know that there are other survivors who were not heard, were not listened to, and were not kept safe. And that that continues to be a problem in our global community, really. It’s also devastating to know that an institution made children more vulnerable for 20 years. The community that I live in and the community where I serve children. It’s also difficult to watch the narrative of shock and surprise, as if MSU and USA Gymnastics hasn’t already had these issues. Specifically MSU we know that they- I mean 250 survivors, they have known that they have an issue with campus sexual assault for decades. So specifically to watch the shock and dismay has been really frustrating."
Torok becomes a little emotional when she reflects on the work she does and the need for it.
"When I think about what it means when we are inundated with the stories of survivors who weren’t listened to, that we have families who have a space where first we believe them and where we listen to what they need and try to provide that I think is something that’s remarkable in our community and feels to me very much like a- this is cheesy- it feels to me like a lighthouse right now in this world where we’re exhausted and inundated and frustrated and we’re watching survivors having to tell their trauma narratives on a national level and watching people victim blame not only the children but the parents. So I’m hoping, my daily hope, is when families come into our space that they can put down those stresses and that they know that when they walk in our doors that they’ll never have to negotiate whether someone in the room believes them."
For more information about them, visit The Firecracker Foundation website.