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Child abuse: Face it, fight it

During a recent meeting, an individual approached Family & Children’s Place President and CEO Pam Darnall to report seeing her on television, on “Leadership Landscape TV,” with Kirt Jacobs. She asked what he thought and he answered, “Oh, I turned it off.” Surprised, she asked why. His answer?

“You were talking about children being sexually abused. I couldn’t watch and hear about it, so I had to turn it off.”

Sadly, “turning it off” doesn’t prevent or stop child physical, sexual or emotional abuse. And just as sadly, his response is not an uncommon emotion for Family & Children’s Place staff. In fact, it’s an all too common emotional response to the work we do.

What we do isn’t pretty. It isn’t easy and it isn’t typical dinner table talk. But it’s critically important – to the injured child, to his or her family and friends (now and in the future), to the community and society at large. A child who has been abused suffers lifelong impact.

In addition to the emotional injuries, there are often physical injuries. And every injured child faces a higher than usual risk of future health impact, from heightened levels of anxiety and depression to cardiovascular, lung and liver disease to alcoholism and substance abuse.  And left untreated, it’s not unusual for an abuse victim to become an abuser.

So, all respect to the individual who spoke with Pam and to others who can’t abide the issue, we – and you – can’t – won’t – turn away. We’re about ending the silence, forcing the issue that has been “dealt with within the family,” or “is the result of bad decision making,” into the open.

There is no excuse for child abuse. We owe every child protection, assurance that he or she won’t become prey to a family member, friend of the family or other.

In March, a young woman whose grandfather abused her put together a walk to raise funds and awareness for Family & Children’s Place. She called the event, “Stomp the silence: Taking steps toward healing.” She chose the name because she, like us, wants to shatter the silence that too long has surrounded child abuse.

She confronted the abuse and her abuser and continues, with help from professionals, friends and family, to recover. Part of that recovery is taking very deliberate steps to ensure that no child endures what she went through – that people pay attention, that when they see it or suspect abuse, they report it. Her bravery and fortitude are inspiring, her determination fierce.

Fierce is what it will take to beat child abuse. A fierce determination to protect children. A fierce watchfulness to identify signs and signals of abuse, and a fierce commitment to report child abuse when you see it and when you suspect it. The last part can be tricky – no one wants falsely to accuse anyone of child abuse, but it’s better to be wrong for the right reasons than to risk another child suffering trauma and injury.

Don’t turn it off. Don’t turn away. Face it. Fight it. Join us and together, we can beat it.

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