Those are the words of Cindy Dennis, a woman whose experiences of trauma and heartache ultimately shaped her life’s work—educating and empowering children to recognize and speak out against all forms of abuse.
Cindy’s journey began in the 1980s when her young son was abused by a family member. This event set in motion the long process of therapeutic recovery, but it also sparked a deep desire in Cindy to learn how she could be a voice for other children who experienced abuse. She earned a degree in psychology, and in the process of learning how to give a voice to others, Cindy recognized that she needed to give herself a voice as well. Speaking out on behalf of the sometimes-voiceless victims of abuse would make demands of her personally, so she sought the counsel of professional coaches in addition to her personal network to help her define her voice.
Cindy benefited from the insight of her coaches, but she also found tremendous value in surrounding herself with other women who provided her with strength, empowerment, and encouragement on her path of discovery. Though others may not have experienced the same hardships that she had, Cindy recognized that there was power in reaching out and comforting the women in her life who were also going through difficult times, as many had done for her. Relationships built on transparency and vulnerability provide a strong sense of safety and mutuality. She acknowledges, “We’re all in this together.”
These days, Cindy is using her voice to help children and their communities develop an awareness of abuse while taking steps to prevent it. In 2016, she established the Give a Child a Voice Foundation, an organization that strives to be the nation’s leader in educating and empowering children to protect themselves from all forms of abuse. Cindy says that many people are reluctant to talk about abuse because it brings up bad memories or feels awkward, or they just want to pretend it doesn’t exist. Her goal is to smash that way of thinking and confront the issue head on. Her work is rooted in the belief that every child was made to shine, and her convictions embolden her to break down the walls of discomfort and shine a light into a very dark subject. From community events to sales and giveaways of a series of picture books written and drawn by Cindy herself, Give a Child a Voice is removing the stigmas of abuse and giving communities the power to recognize and prevent child abuse.