By first grade, Clark County resident Grace* had experienced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Her mom and dad were young, not ready to be parents, and both struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Experiencing shame and humiliation at home and in the community became the norm for her each day. When her father left when she was just under two years old, things didn’t get better. “The tricky part was that much of these adverse experiences continued until I left home at 18,” she says. “So, when we talk about adverse childhood experiences, we are not talking about singular events most times. We are talking about a permeation of violence and chaos that lives with us daily as little people.” Grace explains that her grandparents served as protectors and a few teachers along the way helped bring her out of the fire. She shares, “If not for those wonderful people in my life, I never would have seen any value in myself or projected any meaningful contributions that I could make as an adult. For whatever reason, they were not only able to see something in me that I could not, but they also reminded me that there was a lot of good in the world.”
Grace’s childhood experiences were difficult, but unfortunately, not uncommon. According to 2018’s State of Our Children and Families Report, published by Support for Early Learning and Families (SELF) and Southwest Washington Early Learning Regional Coalition (SWEL), one in six children under the age of 4 is living in poverty in Southwest Washington, 14 percent of people in our area are considered food insecure, and approximately 170 households with children under 18 are homeless. These economic situations often produce additional trauma such as abuse and neglect. Kids and young adults living this reality often face circumstances that are beyond their years and they’re forced to cope in whatever ways they know how, either good or bad. ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Action Alliance was formed to address these kinds of traumas in the Southwest Washington community.
*Name has been changed