Juan Ortiz, his wife Becky, and mother Norma captivated 200 students and community professionals September 27 with their frank and open discussion about the impact of family violence, poverty, drugs, and gangs on their family.

The Ortiz family visited Illinois State University for a Speaker Series talk through a collaboration between the McLean County Child Protection Network, School of Social Work, the Latin American and Latino/a Studies program, The Social Work Club, and the Sage Trust Fund.

Juan spoke graphically about the impact that experiencing child abuse had on his development. Together, Juan and Becky spoke about the continued struggle this experience had on their marriage as Juan’s experiences continued to take a toll even as he went into his adulthood. Juan’s mother Norma spoke of her remarkable strength and resilience as she was committed to protecting her children and eventually rebuilding her life after her husband was imprisoned due to his violence and drug use.

The audience included students, social workers, judges, law enforcement officers, attorneys, and other allied human service professionals. Although some in the audience have been “toughened” by their work, many were moved to tears hearing Juan’s graphic story and his path to overcoming the pain and breaking the legacy of family dysfunction.

The ultimate message of Juan’s presentation was that no matter the negative experience, the human capacity for resilience can triumph over the pain of the past.

Find out more about Illinois State’s Speaker Series.