What April is All About
By Andrew Willis
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan issued a presidential decree naming April National Child Abuse Prevention Month. April became the time when we all focus on preventing child abuse. A time when families and communities come together to prevent child abuse.
Child abuse is a serious problem with lasting harmful effects. The few cases of abuse or neglect seen in the news are only a small part of the problem; most cases are not reported to police or social services.
Survivors of child abuse are more likely to suffer from a host of physical and mental illnesses. They are more likely to die young. They are more likely to be victims of rape and domestic violence as adults. They are more likely to live in poverty. They are more likely to become the people who don’t benefit from the trappings of adulthood when they receive it.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) shows that ten traumas are so severe they cause permanent impairment to adult health. Some of the harm is through mental distress caused by the trauma and unsafe coping mechanisms; drugs, smoking, eating disorders, etc. More startlingly, some of it is due to cellular and subcellular responses to stress that cause permanent changes in a child’s immune, endocrine, nervous and other systems.
Survivors of child maltreatment cost the US an estimated $1 trillion every year. More than the gross domestic product of Australia.
Although there are several types of child abuse, what ties them together is the emotional effect on the child. Children need structure, clear boundaries, and the knowledge that their parents are looking out for their safety. Abused children cannot predict how their parents will act. Their world is an erratic, frightening place with no rules. Whether the abuse is a slap, harsh words, stony silence, or not knowing if there will be food on the table, the end result is a child feeling unsafe, uncared for, and alone. Child maltreatment is often generational. Child maltreatment in one generation is associated with child maltreatment in the next and with long term chronic health problems, but the cycle can be interrupted.
The Stop Abuse Campaign educates on preventing ACEs and lobbies public officials to:
- Provide maternal home visiting services to all mothers who need them.
Maternal Home Visiting programs give mothers who are at high risk for abusing their children the skills to fix their own lives, parent successfully and break the cycle of abuse. They decrease short term costs associated with emergency room visits, preterm births, and CPS involvement. Long term, they also decrease costs associated with special education and crime. Their first year, they save taxpayers $1.15 for every dollar invested in them, and the savings grow over time.
- Hold child molesters and rapists accountable by eliminating all statutes of limitations on child sex abuse.
Statutes Of Limitations for child sexual abuse(SOL’s) aren’t something we think about every day. Although everyday we hear another story of a child who has grown up protecting a dark secret. One who became an adult who dug deep for the courage to disclose their childhood abuse. Who now is another victim not getting their day in court. With another predator protected. More children exposed to sexual violence. Research shows child molesters don’t stop as they age. Experts agree nine out of ten child sex abusers are not on the registries. SOL’s protect them. Why?
- Protecting children in family court through the passage of the Safe Child Act.
Most of the time, if a mother says the man she married sexually abused her child, the courts will give that man custody.The Safe Child Act Custody directs courts to prioritize the health and safety of children, use the latest research rather than discredited research like Parental Alienation Syndrome, and use domestic violence experts in cases involving domestic violence.
- The Quincy Solution to Domestic Violence
The Quincy Solution is a series of best practices centered around batterer accountability and community coordination that have been shown to dramatically reduce domestic violence (DV) crime.
- Educating Adults about Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is one of the most vile of crimes, and the ACE Study shows it is a crime that harms victims for the rest of their lives.
We can’t leave it up to children to protect themselves from abuse, that’s an adult responsibility. But adults can’t protect children if they don’t understand what they’re protecting children from. Working together we can ensure our villages are capable of protecting all of our children.
Every month is child abuse prevention month at the Stop Abuse Campaign. Child maltreatment is preventable. The only question is whether we as families and communities really want to prevent it?
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