Preventing child sexual abuse one cup of coffee at a time.
The Childhood Fractured coffee shop is the hub of a rising creative movement. A curious and vibrant storefront, colorful artwork covers every flat surface. Customers from around the world come to the shop to experience some of the best locally-roasted coffee in Chicago, only to find each cup free of charge. The shop is run by a contemporary artist and a writer who use this platform (and the free coffee!) to speak to customers and fans about a silent epidemic, child sexual abuse.
Allen Vandever and Derek Hopkins have a very personal stake in raising awareness about child sexual abuse. Both Chicago-natives experienced abuse as children; now adults, they use this coffee shop as a vehicle for conversation. However, the men’s art practice goes far beyond making latte hearts. “When there are no customers [in the shop],” Vandever explains, “we have a whole team that are working on making art, writing books, reaching out to sponsors, writing grants, working on social media, and working on prevention and awareness and educational programs. We accomplish an amazing amount every day as a team sharing the same goal… getting survivors to become activist-warriors for children’s rights.”
These men consider themselves proud survivors and advocates. They wear many hats: baristas and artists, but also listeners and teachers. Ultimately, they are on a mission to engage as many people as possible with the truth of child sexual abuse. Hopkins loves to observe the shop-goers as he opens up with them about his experiences. “Looking a stranger in the eyes is a moving experience,” one Hopkins says a writer such as himself needs to have. “The array of facial expressions that come into the fore when crossing over the threshold of our space is both wonderful and strange, just like life. What’s more, is the strange empathetic tinge that is expressed in their faces when we begin to tell them that we are only here to raise awareness on child sexual abuse through contemporary art.” Hopkins has witnessed many different reactions when faced the facts about child sexual abuse. He’s seen people break down in tears, share their deepest secrets, and even come to a greater understanding. Most end up becoming repeat customers.
Even though diving so deep into conversations about child sexual abuse could quickly take a dark turn, Hopkins and Vandever are careful to look for the light. “The exchange [with strangers who share their experiences] always ends in a handshake, or a hug, or just mutual terms of endearment. Somehow, it always leaves me knowing I am doing the right thing.”
“As children, we had no voice,” Vandever adds, “but as adults and as survivors, we have a voice and we’re united. We know we can change things and we can fight for a child’s right to not be molested, to not be abused, and to not have their innocence striped away from them.”
Allen Vandever and Derek Hopkins presented at our Ignite 2018 National Conference in October. In front of a live audience of nearly 200 attendees, Vandever painted and narrated his traumatic experience of being sexually abused and tortured as a child. Following Vandever’s story, Hopkins led a discussion on their experiences at Childhood Fractured and the intention of positive dialogue about sexual abuse through art and storytelling. The beautiful painting was given to the Memphis CAC to hang in their new facility that help hundreds of children heal each year. To learn more about Allen, Derek, and Childhood Fractured check out this previous post.
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