By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of The Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County
April is Child Abuse Prevention month. This is the time of year that we use to spread the word about the social and public health issue that plagues our children. Many people do not generally think about child abuse unless they work in the field or have had it impact their family.
In the United States, four children die every day as a result of child abuse or neglect.
Some reports say that statistic is low and is actually closer to five a day. Most reports state that a large number of those dying are under the age of one. One report states that 79% of the children that die as a result of abuse and neglect are under the age of three. That seems incredible! It is frightening! It seems epidemic.
In 2014, according to the Oregon Child Welfare Data Book, 13 children died as a result of abuse or neglect. There were 10,010 child abuse victims and 46.4% of those victims were under the age of six. Of incidents of abuse, 44.2% were incidents of neglect, 7.1% physical abuse, 6.3% sexual abuse, 1.5% mental injury and 40 % were considered threat of harm which could be related to domestic violence, drug use, sexual abuse, mental injury, or physical abuse.
This is not happening in some far off place. This is happening in Oregon.
Nationally, reports indicate that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of perpetrators of abuse are known by the children they abuse. They are people who are considered family or family-like.
The incidence rate of child abuse and neglect in this country is about ten times as high (40 children per thousand children per year) as the incidence rate for all forms of cancer (3.9 individuals per thousand individuals per year). This statistic is attributed to The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence.
I am also a supporter of cancer research, but when you think about it in terms of our addressing an issue equally in terms of importance; we do not put our money behind child abuse prevention. Not only do we not put our money behind child abuse prevention, we do not put our mouth behind it either.
While cancer is usually talked about in hushed tones, child abuse is rarely talked about at all.
In doing a google search for the top public health issue, child abuse does not even rank in most of the articles I read. Yet, if we look at the statistics of founded cases on both a national and state level, one can see it is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed.
Many people do not want to get “involved” in a situation that is considered “family business” by making a report. Others fear retribution if they make a report.
Recently, I spoke to a friend who had made report on behalf of a young family member. It has turned her family upside down. There has been much anger, fear, and anxiety experienced by all involved—the reporter, the perpetrator, the victim, those who support the perpetrator and those who support the victim. It is hard when you love both the victim and the perpetrator.
This friend is a hero of mine. In spite of all the chaos that ensued after the report was made, she has stood strong. She made the report. She protected the children involved. She has not stopped there. She is making it her business to protect all children.
While these statistics make some feel that it is hopeless, it isn’t. There are some things that we could all do.
Here is my top ten list in random order:
- Learn to recognize and respond to the signs of abuse. (Take a Protect Our Children class or host one for a group of your friends.)
- When you see something that does not seem right, make a report to DHS or law enforcement.
- Support those who make a disclosure of abuse. This can be as simple as not calling them a liar.
- Put everyone in your life on notice that you will not tolerate child abuse of any kind.
- Contact your elected officials on local, state, and national level and tell them keeping children safe from abuse is a priority for you.
- Vote for candidates that make children a priority.
- Donate your time, talent or treasure to an organization that works to protect children from abuse.
- Talk to the children in your life about what abuse is and what they should do if something happens to them. (This should include all kinds of abuse…bullying, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse.)
- BE PRESENT IN YOUR CHILD’S LIFE.
- When you see a parent struggling with their children in a public place, offer support instead of judgement.
If you want to learn more about any of these, to include learning “how” to do these, contact the Children’s Advocacy Center. If there is enough interest we will schedule a special class.
Here is a list of some fun activities you can participate in to let your community know that you will not stand for child abuse:
*Ongoing: The Change for Children Campaign will be taking place throughout the community.
This is an exciting collaborative project between, CASA, Children’s Advocacy Center and The Family Nurturing Center. Look for Change for Children donation jars at: The Butcher Shop, all Lithia car dealerships, Wamba Juice, Central Art Supply, Jackson Creek Pizza, Thai Bistro and Sunrise Cafe.
*April 16th: Panda Express Fundraiser
*April 23rd: Gamble for Good Poker Tournament Fundraiser
*April 25th: Protect Our Children Child Abuse Prevention Training
*April 27th and 28th: Recognizing and Responding to Child Abuse Training – Contact Ginny Sagal at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register