The Roots of My Advocacy, Part 1

This week’s Committee for Children blog post was written by our executive director, Joan Duffell, and is Part 1 of a three-part series.

Joan DuffellIn the mid 1970s, I taught kindergarten to children in a clinical treatment program. These kids had been chronically abused for most of their young lives. They quite understandably exhibited challenging behaviors, and though I was well-trained, I frequently left school at the end of the day feeling discouraged and wholly inadequate to the task of helping them on their journey of healing.

I wondered, “How can I teach these kids to be more positive, caring, and kind when they’ve never seen these qualities in the adults closest to them?” It was this experience—working with children whose lives had been marked by abuse—that forged my lifelong passion for prevention.

Fast-forward several years, during which time my husband and I raised our own children and focused our lives on peace, nonviolence, and social justice issues. In 1983 I was offered the opportunity to work for a small startup nonprofit called Committee for Children. I was attracted to this young Seattle-based organization by its smart, dynamic leaders: Jennifer James, Debra Boyer, and Alice Ray; and even more so by the group’s compelling mission: the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Committee for Children had just created a groundbreaking new curriculum called the Talking About Touching program, which taught children, parents, and educators to recognize and report sexual abuse.

I knew I had found my dream job. I managed a group of volunteers and ran a speakers’ bureau to educate parents and community members about child sexual abuse—a silent epidemic among many seemingly normal families. Little did I know that I had begun a lifelong journey.

Part 2 of Joan's blog post will appear on January 28.