Written by Jessica Hudgins Georgia Writers Project
Diamond Ministries’ E3 Tour: Connecting Resources, One Town at a Time
On a sunny July afternoon, a group of community members, activists, and medical professionals gathered at the Walton County Boys and Girls Club in Monroe. They were there to participate in Diamond Ministries’ E3 Tour.
Diamond Ministries is an organization that works to end all types of abuse and violence through support, advocacy, prevention, and education. It is committed to increasing community awareness and accountability to those effected by Sex Traficking, domestic violence/intimate partner violence, and HIV/AIDS throughout northeast Georgia. Diamond Ministries is headed by writer Adriane M. Brown. Brown says, “We want to Educate the community; we want to Encourage you to do what you want to do in life; and we want to Empower you to take control of your life and do the very best that you can. ” The Tour’s takes “E3” as its title from this mission to Educate, Encourage, and Empower.
The speakers at the Monroe event included Mayor John Howard; Chief of Police Robert Watts; Tammy Kinney, Certified Peer Specialist with Advantage Behavioral Health; Lauren Gregory of A Child’s Voice Advocacy Center; Patrick Reilly of Northeast Health District; and Tavis Taylor of Tavis Taylor Talks. As each spoke, it became clearer that each of these issues -- domestic violence, human sex trafficking, and HIV -- is connected with the others. It is difficult to find help because of two limiting factors: a lack of financial resources and a lack of education. “The purpose of the Tour,” Brown says, “is to bridge the gap between the community and service providers. A lot of people just don’t know where to get help and/or they don’t know it exists.”
Mayor Howard opened up the morning with the story of a friend’s daughter who, in a visit to the Mall of Georgia, was approached by a recruiter for sex trafficking. This problem is now in Newton, Gwinnett, and Clarke counties. “There haven’t been any large trafficking rings here in Monroe, that we’ve busted. But we can’t say that it’s not going on here.”
The solution he offered was for parents to talk to their kids, “There’s only one you for your children.” And, he says, “We have a loving community and law enforcement, we have a lot of resources that help kids learn, but we will not be able to reverse the effects of trafficking. We need to avoid it altogether.”
Police Chief Watts addressed the crowd about domestic violence in Monroe, in Georgia, and in the nation. Before the event, he went over the last few years of records in the Police Department. Here are some highlights:
Between July 2017 and today, City officers were dispatched to domestic disputes 1,210 times.
In the state of Georgia, from 2003-2018, at least 2,035 lost their lives to domestic violence.
Firearms were the cause of death in 72% of these cases.
The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
15.5 million children in the U.S. witness domestic violence at least once in a year.
Chief Watts left with the message that the Police Department’s role is to build one-on-one relationships with the citizens of Monroe. “Just as in a marriage,” Chief Watts said, “a relationship is built on trust. I can’t tell you how many times something big has happened, and I’ve been able to have a conversation with people, and we were able to resolve the issue without betraying that trust.”
A Child’s Voice Child Advocacy Center has 800 Centers in the nation and 50 in Georgia. The Centers offer free forensic interviews and forensic medical exams, as well as family advocacy and support, and community outreach. While the Center does partner with law enforcement, Department of Family and Children's Services, with the District Attorney’s Office, it is an independent non-profit that provides a safe and friendly environment for children to talk to professionals about their experiences.
The Center talks with kids about sex trafficking, domestic violence, and HIV exposure, which are all negative things that happen to kids. In its outreach efforts, the Center concentrates on using information to empower the community. Lauren Gregory, Family Advocate and Community Coordinator with the Center, said, “A lot of this is really heavy, and it’s easy to leave these kinds of events feeling weighed down, but we do a lot of prevention and education so that you can go out into the community and make a difference.”
Gregory offered some fundamental steps that people can take to help their kids:
Talk to kids about sex before they’re 8. This is when kids find out about it anyway. If a child knows about their body, about what are “ok touches” and “not okay touches,” then they’ll know how to tell you what’s wrong.
Say, “You can talk to me if something happens, no matter what it is.” Often kids are scared that their loved ones will be sad or angry when they hear that something is wrong.
With your kids, identify a “safe adult” that they can talk to.
It’s important not to overreact if a child tells you something troubling. The best first step is to report the child’s story to law enforcement, which will know how to move ahead.
Less than 10% of child abuse allegations are false. It’s very uncommon for kids to lie. If you hear something from a child, it’s important that you believe them, because they need help.
Patrick Reilly, Environmental Health Manager at the Northeast Health District, spoke next. Reilly has a Masters in Public Health, and serves the Northeast Health District with HIV Outreach and Testing, and Linkage to Care. Reilly spoke about the free and confidential HIV testing offered by the Northeast Health District, at all locations. The test is quick and easy: you get your results in less than a minute. Once a patient learns their status, they can get signed up for the PrEP pill, which is a daily pill that prevents new HIV infections. If the patient tests positive, they will receive immediate support, and they can get signed up for a follow-up appointment and a contact person. You can learn more about these services at: https://publichealthathens.com/wp/services/hivaids/hiv-testing/
The last speaker, Tavis Taylor, is a motivational speaker with a focus on parenting. She speaks from a Christian perspective, and through Tavis Taylor Talks helps parents discuss difficult topics with their children. She is a mother, and draws from her personal experience parenting her son as he went through a difficult time as a teenager. Learn more about Taylor at: http://tavistaylor.com/about-me/
Live Forward and the Northeast Health District offer free HIV testing at each E3 event. Everyone who gets tested receives a free gift card. These resources also offer HIV testing and medical services year-round, for the following counties: Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, and Walton. Live Forward’s mission is to build healthier communities through stable housing, improved health management, strong community outreach and widespread prevention services, ensuring those we help live with dignity and a positive quality of life.
The next stop on Diamond Ministries’ E3 Tour is this Saturday, August 17 from 11-2 in Social Circle. The address is Calvary Temple Community Center Building 236 Oak Drive Social Circle, GA 30025. There will be free groceries, free lunch, and community resources at the event. For more information, visit: www.diamondministriesinc.com