Child abuse prevention means we must be willing to: ‘Speak up, Protect and Heal’

Good morning. I’d like to start by thanking all of you for being here today in helping raise awareness about Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a mother, grandmother, and someone who has practiced social work for nearly 30 years now, your presence here today is not only heartwarming, but it lifts my spirit and soul. I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge those here who make a daily commitment to protecting our children. I’d like to say thank you to the entire Children’s Services team that work tirelessly at a job that can be extremely difficult and heartbreaking at times. Thank you! Your strength, courage and dedication to the service of children and their families are so greatly appreciated.

As all of you are aware, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is for many of us amazing. I say this because child abuse is not an easy topic to think about or talk about for that matter. There was a time not that long ago when it was considered a private family matter that was never spoken of. The motto was “mind your own business.” Unfortunately, over time the consequences prove to be catastrophic. As a result, it’s more likely than not that everyone in this room has either been a victim of abuse or we know and care for someone who has been a victim. In other words, each and every one of our lives has been impacted by child abuse or neglect.

Although I believe that raising awareness about prevention is a very important step toward protecting our children, I think it’s important to remember that it’s only one of many difficult and complex steps we must take as a community.

For years now, we have been teaching our children about the dangers of talking to strangers, the differences between good touch and bad touch, setting safe boundaries and when to tell someone if anyone harms them. All of these are important, and they help keep our kids safe, but none of them guarantee their safety. And it puts a tremendous amount of responsibility on the child to protect themselves from abuse.

We must not forget that our children come in to this world completely innocent and vulnerable. The Creator has placed them under our care. They are completely and totally dependent on us as a community not only to feed and clothe them, but more importantly to keep them from harm. It is our responsibility as adults, first and foremost, to love and protect them, which means it is also our responsibility to speak up when we see something that concerns us – such as when we notice a child’s behavior suddenly changes or we notice a new unexplained injury. In fact, almost all childcare professionals today, such as teachers, day care employees, medical care providers and athletic coaches, are all required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child, which I think it’s important to acknowledge, as it is not an easy thing to do.

In fact, many who have reported abuse before know firsthand that it can be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do because reporting abuse often means reporting on a relative or close friend. In situations that involve those we love and care for, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that reporting abuse may be a much-needed lifeline for not only a child or children, but for the parents as well.

Child abuse prevention is much more than emergency intervention. Child abuse prevention requires healing of all members of a family. Child abuse is a family crisis. To put it another way, child abuse is a sign or indicator that a family is in crisis. Often the entire family needs healing.

Many parents today grew up in a time or community where it wasn’t safe to talk about abuse – and if they did speak up, nobody came to their defense, or worse nobody believed them. Which made many of us wonder, “What did I do to cause this?” “Was the abuse my fault?” “Did I bring it on myself?” Thoughts like these instill shame, which leads to fear and stigmas that prevent us from seeking help and healing.

Child abuse prevention means we need to let go of many of the stigmas that prevent us from healing from past abuses and traumas.

Child abuse prevention means we need to learn how to open ourselves up to healing whether we find it through counseling and/or traditional or cultural practices.

Child abuse prevention means that we must recognize that child abuse and neglect is not just a problem for mothers and fathers who abuse or neglect their children – it is a multi-generational problem that impacts the entire community.

Child abuse prevention means that every one of us must be willing to do our part if we want to succeed in breaking the cycle of multi-generational abuse and neglect.

Child abuse prevention means we must be willing to: “Speak up, Protect and Heal.”

Imagine for a moment a community where all children were revered for their innocence and curiosity – where parents reach out for help, guidance and support for harming or neglecting their children.

Imagine a community where healing was built into the fabric of our daily lives – where a community lifts up those who are suffering or in need of love and support.

Imagine a community where child abuse and neglect are a far-gone issue of the past! Where every child feels love and fears no harm.

When I look out at all of you here today, it’s not hard for me to imagine such a community because I know in my heart that your presence brings us closer to that reality. When I look around at all the support and services available in our community and I see all of you who care and are willing to come out on a Sunday morning to help raise awareness to make child abuse and neglect a thing of the past, I am filled with hope, optimism and more importantly – faith!

Thank you so much for taking the time today to stand up and take a few steps in preventing and eliminating child abuse and neglect in our community.