Janice Gomes has been an advocate for trauma survivors of all ages for more than 20 years. The Discovery Bay resident became a crisis intervention counselor after her then-4-year-old daughter was molested by a 58-year-old male neighbor, who she said also confessed to abusing 11 other boys and girls in the neighborhood.
“Things had to change,” Gomes said.
She said she first took the policing route, taking modules with the Antioch Police Department and Los Medanos College, simply trying to expand her education. She wanted to learn more about crime, criminals and their reasoning behind why they target the people they do.
But she also wanted to support the survivors of those crimes — the survivors of trauma.
“There isn’t always an avenue to go talk about your trauma,” Gomes said. “Some people don’t want to talk about it or they’ll say, ‘I had trauma, and how can you help me without me going into my trauma?’ Other people wear it like it’s clothing every single day.”
She founded a nonprofit organization, National Community Empowerment Programs, that has evolved through the years as her education has grown and expanded. Her goal with supporting survivors, she says, is to meet people where they are.
Gomes is leading a group at Brentwood Elementary School — her current attendees are all women, ranging from 20 to 75 years old — about surviving trauma. The group is powerful because the women, while their stories may be different, are learning they’re not alone.
She said it is often difficult for people going through trauma to lean on their friends, because they don’t know how to react or relate if they haven’t been there.
“It’s not your place to change them and mold them and heal them,” she said. “It’s your place to help them get into a comfort zone where they recognize, ‘Oh, this feels better.’”
Gomes recognizes that people heal at different paces, and some people only come to her group once or twice, or some come every week, but don’t want to share about themselves — and that’s okay. But the majority of them say it is helpful in some way.
“I never say ‘don’t cry,’” Gomes said. “I will never tell you it’s going to be better. I will tell you it’s going to be different. And today’s going be different than yesterday. So don’t be fearful about it.”
NCEP’s support group takes place Monday nights at Brentwood Elementary, 200 Griffith Lane, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. It’s a 13-week group, and there are 11 weeks remaining. Anyone is welcome, and there’s no cost to attend.
For more information about NCEP, email Janice Gomes at email@example.com.