Dallas Children's Advocacy Center on Swiss Avenue, is Dallas' Police Department's social intervention annex, run by Claudia Burns. The center intervenes in domestic issues involving children when appropriate. When the police informed Burns about the molests at Love Field, Burns went into action and set-out to deal with the boys and their families behind closed doors. But the doors were closed to everyone, even professional health care providers.
As a symbolic gesture to this neighborhood of lower-income residents, it was a personal decision to dedicate a living tree in honor of the surviving boys. When Burns heard of this plan, she did not hide her rage.
"You are exploiting these children for your own benefit," she told me via telephone conversation.
"There is no benefits for me, Claudia. I care about these boys' future, and they need to know they are not alone," I say.
Burns continued to use the line of "exploiting children," with her quick-southern drawl. I imagined her phone receiver drooling saliva as she spat in vile manner, making me out to be the "bad guy."
"As these kids grow older, and know someone in the community dedicated a tree on their behalf, I would hope they can know 'I understood' what they went through," I tell Burns. This enraged her more.
"Mr. Miller, you are hurting them more," she said.
Her jealous rage was my own perception. I did not understand why she opposed the community, which employs her, to care for kids we do not know. She should have been pleased that her organization was receiving publicity around the molests, and thus, more contributions.
Burns hung up the phone, without finishing our conversation. Quite a different reaction to the one she gave accepting her outstanding achievement award from the City of Dallas. Perhaps she is entitled to flare of temper now and then.
Despite Burn's argument, my tree was dedicated and planted at the community center in Love Field, where it now stands 25 feet tall. And to the boys who suffered at the hands of one, the message is "You are not alone, in the struggle to overcome this personal challenge."
Speach at the dedication ceremony at City Hall:
To quote a man who also saw a vision of commitment, Robert Kennedy said "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage, and belief that human history is shaped each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, Those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Sexual Assault is the least discussed crime in our country, yet it's perpetrators account for the third largest prison population. We have to question why our system gravitates towards using money to care for sex offenders after the fact, and why we don't help build the survivor's dignity . Our greatest goal must use proactive people in the prevention of sexual assault through awareness, education and by breaking the silence.
No single crime transforms the life of a human more, than rape, but it is a personal fear of societal judgment that keeps the survivor silent. It is for those who fear, we must give encouragement and hope.
At the front of this holiday season it's an appropriate time to express my gratitude to this mayor and to this council by bearing a simple gift. I give an 8-year-old red oak tree to be planted in the spring just before Rape Awareness Day. This tree will become a message that lives beyond our efforts to educate this community and a dignified way to say we care.
I give this tree today as a symbol of courage, that as this tree matures, despite the harshest winters, a much kinder spring will bring forth new life."