April and spring are upon us, which means it’s time to focus our efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. April was declared Child Abuse Prevention Month by Congress in 1983.
In the 1960s, doctors observed what they referred to as ‘battered child syndrome’ where children would come into emergency rooms with new wounds and improved older ones. After this observation by doctors, efforts initiated to safeguard the safety of children at home. The first federal child protection legislation was enacted in 1974 in reaction to an increase in public awareness of the need to guarantee the welfare and safety of children. The law was referred to as CAPTA – the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.
Child Abuse Prevention Month
The child abuse prevention month observed in April initially started as a week in 1982. However, it became clear that one week was not enough to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect issues. A month was determined sufficient for this purpose, and Congress designated that month as April.
How can you help efforts to prevent child abuse and raise awareness?
The changing norm in society is to prevent child abuse from occurring in the first place, instead of dealing with its after effects. Every member of the community can play a role in establishing stable, safe and nurturing environments and relationships that are pivotal to healthy childhoods all children deserve.
Here are three things you can do that do contribute to child abuse prevention in communities.
- Mentor a parent or child.
- Advocate for family-friendly policies.
- Spend some of your money and time on organizations that serve children.
What Are The Statistics On Child Abuse In The U.S.?
Despite the best efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect, it does at times happen. American SPCC paints a horrifying picture of how common these cases are. The websites quote an essay written by Every Child Matters (ECM) Education Fund’s President, Michael Petit, in which he stated that the number of U.S. children killed at home by their relatives in the last ten years stood at about 20,000 – a figure almost four times the number of soldiers from the United States killed in Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
This death rate of U.S. children from home abuse is thrice that of Canada and eleven times that of Italy. The United States has the worst child abuse and neglect statistics amongst industrialized nations.
What You Can Do to Help a Child Victim of Abuse
When a child who is a victim of abuse reports the abuse to you, do the following;
- Keep calm. Do not panic or overreact by showing shock, disbelief or use big words such as child abuse and rape, which could make the get child scared and lose confidence in you.
- Reassure the child that they did not do anything to deserve the violation and that they did the right thing in sharing with you. Assure them you believe them and you will help them.
- Allow the child to use the language they have for specific body parts and particular activities. Depending on the child’s age, for instance, they will use different terms to describe acts that amount to sexual abuse. Do not correct the child’s use of language.
- Avoid interrogating the child or making suggestions of what could have happened.
- Explain to them why you cannot keep the information to yourself. In many states, the law prohibits you from holding such information.
- Report the child abuse to the authorities.
What Other Communities Are Doing to Help Children and Raise Awareness
Organizations like Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention (CANP) have a committee that works with local collaborative agencies to support prevention measures and create awareness in communities that prevention of abuse is feasible. A committee referred to as Success by 6 Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, launched a project called ‘Pin Wheels For Prevention‘ last April. The pinwheels campaign in Erie County was highly successful. Four early education centers and ten schools participated. Pinwheels and educational materials were distributed to school-going children last April. The pinwheels represented healthy, carefree and happy childhoods. The project in Erie County was based on the fact that prevention of child abuse and raising awareness of such issues involves giving families the tools and resources they need to guide and nurture their children.
About The Author
Brian Kent is a partner at AbuseGuardian.com. He graduated with a law degree from Philadelphia’s Temple University, and served as a criminal prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of Montgomery County’s District Attorney’s Office.