By Tammi Pitzen, Director of The Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County

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I will let you in on a secret. I love animated movies. I love Disney. I love Pixar. Long before I had my son, I would watch these movies . . . usually not on the big screen, but in the privacy of my own home.

When my son became old enough to watch movies, but too young to go to the theatre, I bought every animated movie I could find. Usually these movie days ended with me watching the movie alone as my son’s attention would be diverted elsewhere — long before the movie was over.

I think one of my favorites is the movie Barnyard. Have you seen that one? The animals can all talk but only do so when their human is not around. The main character is a cow who was found and adopted by the Patriarch Cow, Ben. This young cow, Otis, loves to party and have a good time. The Patriarch Ben is trying to teach his son the importance of work, and that being a leader means taking care of those around you.

There is a line that is the central theme of the movie. “A strong man stands up for himself. A stronger man stands up for others.”

Wow. That sums up life beautifully. We should be standing up for ourselves and modeling that behavior for our children. We need to make sure that we let people around us know what we need and to show our children that it is okay to take care of your needs and to value yourself.

Our purpose is to take care of those who are vulnerable and speak for them until they find their voice.

This month is Child Abuse Prevention/Awareness Month.

Every year this is a month that turns the spotlight on child abuse victims and what adults can do to keep children safe from abuse. For the month of April we make this huge push for these things to be in the public’s eye. And then it seems it is forgotten for the rest of the year, except by those whose job it is to work to keep kids safe.

Generally this is when I will write about a lot of statistics. Usually I would tell you that there were 707 confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in Jackson County, Oregon last year. I would normally tell you that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. I would tell you that an estimated 400,000 babies born in the United States this year will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

But this year I wanted to do something more hopeful. I wanted to do something that would start a movement.

I want to challenge you to embrace Ben’s words. Every day I want you to find a way to stand up for yourself. Value yourself. Help others to value you. And I want you to take it one step further. I want you to find one thing that you can do to be stronger.

I want you to find one thing that you will do to stand up for abused children. That adds up to a lot being done on behalf of abused children in a year’s time.

You might be asking yourself “What Can I do?”

I am going to make it easy for you and make some suggestions:

• Learn to recognize the signs of child abuse

• Make a donation to an agency that serves child abuse victims. (my favorite is the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County :-))

• Volunteer for a program that serves children

• Take a child abuse prevention class (The CAC of Jackson County facilitates Stewards of Children/Darkness to Light once a month and also will come to your organization to facilitate a class just for your group)

• Let your government officials know that you support initiatives that help support child abuse victims getting the best services they can get

• Let your government officials know that training people who investigate child abuse or work with child abuse victims and their families is a priority

• Support initiatives like United Way of Jackson County’s Big Idea as a way to empower children to dream big and achieve goals

• Listen to a child

• Put a potential offender on notice by insuring you are not leaving your child alone with someone who is identified as unsafe, by knowing who your child spends time with and by insisting on background checks/references for people who will be in positions of authority (babysitters, youth serving programs etc) over your child

• Report abuse if you suspect it

That should get you started.

Live your life in a way that would make Ben, the cow, proud.

If you have not seen the movie, I strongly encourage it (with or without kids).

 

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