The Undercover Mentor

By Becky Perkins, Vice President of Marketing & Outreach

I’ve been a victim advocate for most of my adult life. Because of that fact, I gravitate toward people who possess both a caring heart and a robust sense of humor. (Caring hearts need to laugh). Right now, as I’m doing my best to navigate this surreal chapter in the history of all our lives, I find myself valuing these traits even more.

I have a suspicion that you’re my kind of person, and I want to share with you why that matters.

There are millions of people in this country right now who have experienced life-altering trauma from abuse, neglect, violence, addiction, and many more awful things. (And that’s on top of the upheaval caused by the Coronavirus). You may very well be one of them. For children especially, these traumas shape the way they view themselves, the way they see and interact with others, and the way they understand the world and their place in it. Due to the shame, stigma, and confusion so often accompanying traumatic experiences like abuse, many children suffer in silence. Many act out in ways that cause society to label them as “bad kids,” which robs them of the opportunity to heal and grow and thrive. Being stuck in place right now, away from familiar sources of stability and support (like school), these victimized children are at risk of feeling even more alone.

This is the current reality for many of our Littles who are waiting for a mentor, and it hurts my heart. Since I suspect you’re my kind of person, I’m guessing it hurts your heart, too.

As a young girl, I suffered one of these traumas (sexual assault). I was very fortunate to have a stable and loving home where all my physical needs were met, but the emotional trauma I experienced turned my inner world upside down. My attacker threatened me to keep quiet, and I did for over a decade. I believed that I was broken and unlovable. Nearly every day I worried that something terrible might happen to me again and if it did, it’s because I deserved it. This reaction is not at all uncommon for children who suffer sexual assault or abuse.

Until I felt old enough and safe enough to speak of my experience and seek help, I made it through because I had mentors – people who didn’t know they were mentors. They were teachers I admired who saw my potential, who challenged and nudged me along the way. They were my “second moms,” the mothers of close friends who loved me unconditionally. And later, they were my supervisors and friends who brought out the best in me when I couldn’t always see it in myself. Without being anything other than who they are, these people changed my life for the better, forever.

Becky (at right), with one of her mentors, atop a mountain they climbed together in Colorado

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides a time-tested, proven effective vehicle for matching mentors with children who want one. We provide ongoing support so that our Bigs and Littles never go it alone. We’re here now during this pandemic, and we’ll be here when it’s over. We’re still here because the kids who need a mentor are still here. Because you’re still here.

The two most common reasons people give for why they can’t be a mentor are 1) they don’t think they have enough time, and 2) they don’t think they have the right skills. Believe me, I understand those reasons. But here’s the thing: you’ve been doing it all along just by being you, which is all it really takes to be a mentor. You are that teacher, that second mom (or dad), that supervisor and friend.

In other words, you already know how to be a mentor. So, why not make it official? I mean, you know that kind heart of yours, that hobby you love, that activity you’re really good at, that hilarious sense of humor you have? There’s a child out there who would love nothing more than to experience those awesome things with you. What do you say?

See? I knew you were my kind of person.

To learn more about becoming a mentor, text “BIG” to 513-857-1491, or click here to apply.

If you have experienced sexual assault or abuse, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network offers a toll-free hotline, live chat, and links to local resources. What happened to you is not your fault, and help is available. Please don’t suffer in silence.

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