Some days, the smell of laundry detergent is enough to remind Gay and Durand Bivens’ daughter of the night a family friend sexually assaulted her. Some days, all it takes is a joke, maybe even a single word.
She was 9 when it happened, and her abuser was someone close to her family.
Now a teenager, the girl continues to wrestle with the aftermath of her assault at the hands of someone she trusted.
“We didn’t know what to do, what to expect, where to go, how to get help for my daughter,” says Gay, who, with her husband, works at Movement’s National Sales Support Center in Fort Mill, S.C.
They found help at Turning Point, a nonprofit that offers counseling, shelter and other resources to domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse victims. Based in Union County, N.C., the organization houses doctors, counselors, victims advocates and forensic interviewers under one roof.
For the Bivens’ daughter, it was a lifeline.
That’s why the couple nominated Turning Point for the Movement 10k, an ongoing campaign to give $10,000 to organizations, charities and nonprofits significant to Movement employees. The 10k turned one year old last month. Since inception, it’s invested more than $110,000 in 11 organizations that bring life, light and hope to people in need.
The 10k story
When Garrett McNeill joined the Movement Foundation in 2014, he was a contract employee with one job: help launch the Movement Center in west Charlotte. Over time, that job changed (he’s now the foundation’s executive director) and his vision expanded.
He wanted to find a way to extend Movement’s goal to be a Movement of Change to communities across the country. Although headquartered in the Charlotte area, Movement has branches, operation centers and hundreds of employees in cities across 47 states.
It took two years but McNeill’s desire eventually birthed the Movement 10k. Instead of unilaterally deciding how the company’s employees would donate to charitable causes, the foundation comes alongside them with a gift of $10,000 to the organizations they love.
Last April, the first 10k grant went to the Royal Kids Camp, a faith-based nonprofit in California that provides camps, clubs and mentoring to abused and neglected children. Dan Peterson, a branch manager in California, nominated the group.
“It’s not pushed down from the foundation,” McNeill says of 10k. “It’s something employees at Movement Mortgage are intimately part of.”
To nominate nonprofits, employees submit a video of the organizations they support. A committee then picks a winner each month to receive the $10,000.
Now it’s benefitting Turning Point, the organization that helped the Bivens’ daughter and plans to use the grant to enhance support group and counseling services for sex abuse victims and their families.
“The impact of the 10k program has far exceeded our expectations,” McNeill says. “To come alongside these organizations that are actually the boots on the ground, working in local communities, it creates a really beautiful space for us to be able to do that.”
The Bivens family story
First, a disclaimer: The Bivens volunteered to share their story. They want to encourage other victims of sexual violence to disclose their assault without fear of public stigma or victim blaming. Second, a reminder: Their daughter’s assailant was a longtime family friend who never displayed signs of being a sexual predator.
He destroyed that trust at Christmastime four years ago when he sneaked into the girl’s bedroom and assaulted her. Then, he taunted her. Her parents say he tried to scare her into silence.
This night, she wasn’t afraid.
She told her parents what happened. The Bivens confronted the man, and he confessed.
“As much as I really wanted to hurt this young man…at that point, I heard the voice of God say, ‘Lead him to Christ,’” Durand says.
Surprising even himself, Durand obeyed. He guided the man through the sinner’s prayer of salvation. Then, he let the police take him away in cuffs.
The difficulty with disclosure
The Bivens would later learn that their daughter’s abuse was ongoing, perhaps starting as early as age 4.
Recurrence in sexual assault is common. So is abuse at the hands of an acquaintance.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, the kids know their abuser, which means it’s a family member, close family friend, someone who has gained trust and access to the family,” says Ashley Lantz, Turning Point’s executive director. That “can make (the assault) difficult to talk about. Some of the kids are afraid. Their abusers manipulate them…and threaten to harm them or their family.”
It made me feel like I was going to disappoint my parents.” – The Bivens’ daughter
Of the sexual assault cases not reported to police over a five-year period, 20 percent of those victims chose not to disclose because they feared retaliation; 7 percent didn’t want to get the perpetrator in trouble, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
In a video produced by Turning Point, the Bivens’ daughter details her reluctance with disclosing the assault.
“It made me feel like I was going to disappoint my parents,” she says before wiping away tears. “You have to tell somebody because you’re not going to like it. You’re going to feel like you’re disappointing yourself and your family for not telling anybody.”
Fear gave way to courage and the girl told her parents.
“I said a prayer (that) this isn’t going to happen anymore,” she says. “Now I understand what this is and I don’t want this anymore.”
Facing the trauma
Over the next year, the Bivens endured a spate of court dates and hearings. Their willingness to allow strangers to interact with their children diminished.
Psychiatrists diagnosed their daughter with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her grades slipped, and she refused to sleep in her room. Her older brother gave her his hat; she wore it like a security blanket. She carried her teddy bears everywhere. A certain laundry detergent reminded her of her attacker’s clothes so her parents let her pick out the detergent for their household.
The night of the attack, police referred the Bivens to Turning Point. At first, their daughter didn’t want to talk about the incident. Over time, the nonprofit’s counselors helped the girl open up about her assault. They gave her strategies to cope with the trauma, and showed support at every court appearance. They even offered counseling to the Bivens and their sons.
Once her year of counseling ended, Turning Point threw the Bivens’ daughter a party. They painted her bedroom and gave her a new bed, new sheets and a new comforter. Program interns from Wingate University made her 20 wall plaques showcasing inspirational quotes and Bible verses. The organization’s counselors still keep in touch with her.
“I’m so happy about the person that she is and where she is now,” Gay says. “She’s just so compassionate about those who really can’t speak up for themselves, or those who have been taken advantage of.”
The big reveal
It’s late Wednesday afternoon and Movement CEO Casey Crawford stands on the second floor of the company’s headquarters. He’s in front of a camera, readying himself for a surprise.
Gay and Durand’s surprise.
His voice booming, Crawford walks over to the unwitting couple and presents them with a giant check. It’s made out to Turning Point, on their behalf.
Durand Bivens cries. Later, so does Gay.
“I feel a sense of release — release and relief just knowing that is going to be able to help other individuals,” Durand says. “It just feels like I won the lottery.”
Adds Gay: “Movement cares. Movement is love. Movement is the picture of love. Just being a part of this company just lets us know that they care about more than just employees or just the job or just the mortgage.
“They care about people.”
Watch Gay and Durand’s surprise here: