Elizabeth Johnson, executive director of Jesse's House, told a group of Cumming Vietnam Veterans that the stories of neglect and abuse faced by the young women at her shelter would be unsettling. It didn't take long before her audience knew she was right.
Johnson has been the director since 2019 and even she gets emotional about what her residents have seen and endured.
In its 23-year history, Jesse’s House has helped almost 1,100 girls escape horrendous conditions and help them overcome the victimization, which is often committed by members of their own families.
With a capacity of 12 girls, Jesse’s House is currently home to eight girls ages 13 to 18.
Every one of them, Johnson said, came from situations no one would believe exists here in our community.
“Every girl comes to us with complex trauma, they have all experienced the severe pervasive, repeated exposure to traumatic events,” she said.
They have lived in terror of their father's rage, they have lived in fear of mom overdosing, and one girl who watched helplessly as her father drowned her mother in a bathtub,” Johnson said.
She said of the eight girls currently living there, most have experienced physical abuse, and almost all have been sexually abused.
“With an uncertain future and a traumatic past it's our job to act as a counterbalance to the trauma and uncertainty,” Johnson said.
But she said she sees signs of hope every day. One example is that in the last five years every girl has graduated from high school on time, far outpacing the statistical average for girls in foster or institutional care in Georgia.
VVA Chapter 1030 presented Ms. Johnson with a check to provide gift cards for each girl for Christmas and, in addition, the members present passed the hat and donated another $600 to help with the girls’ care.
Chapter 1030 President Gary Goyette congratulated everyone at Jesse’s House for their accomplishments and said his organization plans to provide ongoing support for the residents in the future.