We’ve covered all types of topics on One Unified Project since our inception in October of 2014: music, interesting occupations, sex, equal rights, veterans, businesses, and many more, including charities. I recently was at Parx enjoying some music by Stems and Seeds when suddenly, I noticed the band members wearing neckties that they didn’t have on before. I thought this was a new thing they were doing, being the fun band that they are. I asked Krista Doran (lead vocalist) what the story was and she introduced me to Melissa Gail. Melissa explained to me what the purpose was of the ugly ties and below, you’ll read what she told me. What I will tell you is that it did exactly what it was supposed to do…start a conversation about the organization she is involved with dealing with a topic horrific and, sadly, more common than we’d like to recognize. In this interview, you’ll learn about The Mama Bear Effect, why she got involved and how you can learn more about it. Sometimes, we don’t know who may be a victim, so please share this so it reaches those who may need to see it and be helped by it.
On this Mother’s Day, we want to thank Melissa for sharing her story with us and thank her son (and his good friend) for being brave enough to come forward and give others courage to do the same.
What is the name of the organization you’re involved with and what is your role?
The Mama Bear Effect, which is a 501(c) 3 non profit organization which, just last year, worked to get a nationally excepted and recognized ribbon of awareness.
The Campaign you were witness to was our TieOne.org where we ask folks to wear an ugly tie to encourage conversations about how ugly child abuse is. We started this last year to raise awareness during the month of April, which is national child abuse prevention month. My role, along with most of my immediate family members, is that of an advocate. We are the first in Pennsylvania.
The [organization focuses on] the prevention of child sexual abuse through education. Our objectives are to raise awareness & encourage prevention methods since so many people are simply not aware as to how often children are being sexually abused. How to prevent it…this is one of our main goals. We believe that when people get involved, change can be made. Family by family. Community by community. We share concise awareness and prevention tips and encourage each person to take responsibility, not just for their own children, but for their community. The home page of the website says it best “We are about people caring, uniting, learning, and taking action to protect children. To prevent the sexual abuse of children we need to look within ourselves and acknowledge the strength that we have, take the time to educate ourselves, and be proactive and steadfast against sexual abusers.
It doesn’t take a complex mathematical equation or weapons of mass destruction, it takes people with big hearts and open eyes to stand up for these children when they need us most. Every single person can make a difference in the life of a child on their own, and we, as a people united, can make a difference in our society.”
When and why did you become involved?
In March of 2012, our youngest child revealed in school to some class mates that he was raped. One friend insisted that he tell an adult right then & there. He would not take NO for an answer. (Thank goodness for his ability to get our child to tell). This child, of roughly 13 years old, raised his hand in the middle of class, told the teacher that our child NEEDED to go to the counselor’s office and took him by the arm and walked with him to the office.
He couldn’t speak but managed to write what happened to him. We were called into school and from there we began to look for ways to address the situation. I stumbled across a Facebook post which lead me to the Mama Bear Effect website. I was, in what I called, Mama Bear Mode. So the site REALLY spoke to me.
As a mother, I needed to heal my child and family. As a mother, I also felt that I must save EVERY other parent from going through the pain I was experiencing. I believe that The Mama Bear Effect empowers me to do that.
In what ways does Mama Bear help victims of abuse?
We have gathered cards with encouraging words to children who have, or were, in the process of testifying against their abusers. We have a section on the website called “Survivor Studio”. This is a blog dedicated to child survivors of sexual abuse that wish to share their stories through art, music, poetry and other creative outlets.
We work with other groups such as “Break The Cycle” (www.Breakthecyclejewelry.com). They put together comfort care packages (stuffed animals; coloring books; cool, hand made crayons; craft kits; etc) for children who have disclosed abuse. The founder of TMBE, Adrianne Simone has been a wealth of support to others, creating Facebook groups where we can all chat & bounce ideas off one another. [Something else] I could go on and on about.
How is your son now and was his abuser ever caught and/convicted?
Our son is doing wonderful! He advocates for TMBE, speaks at events for NOVA and plans to ride with BACA next year to help children who have gone through similar things that he endured.
Our son’s abuser was punished, while not nearly long enough, he did serve time and that is a victory. Most children do not get that justice at all.
(To read more about Melissa’s son and what happened to the “man” that victimized him, please read this article seen in the Northeast Times: http://www.northeasttimes.com/search/?q=Rick+jastemski )
How can people get involved?
Visit the website (www.themamabeareffect.org) and look around, see what appeals to YOU. We did the Door Hanger Campaign back in 2013 and do it every April now.
Other ways to find TMBE:
The Mama Bear Effect
PO BOX 190
Pinehurst, MA 01866
How has it made a difference in your life?
TMBE has been a God send. Providing positive support, educational materials, a circle of others who share in the desire to save whatever amount of children from this epidemic. It has empowered me to find my voice to speak out against child sexual abuse