By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County
April is child abuse prevention/awareness month. This is my traditional April Blog recognizing and focusing on the problem of child abuse.
I was doing a little research to see what was going on in the world of child abuse. I found a page on the internet that is nothing but stories of child abuse. They are all true. They are all recent. They are all heartbreaking.
One tells of a child whose father found out she was having sex and so, as punishment, forced her to become a prostitute at a truck stop. There are stories of child fatalities; there are stories of parents beating their children. It is quite disturbing. It is a true crime website. I was simply looking for some compelling story to blog about and found a whole site. All from 2017.
Some will say that those horrible things do not happen in Oregon. Those things happen in other countries or other parts of this country. Sadly, this is not accurate.
There were 964 children abused in Jackson County in 2016. In the state of Oregon, there were 27 child abuse fatalities. 21 of those were perpetrated by a parent or parent figure. All 27 of the children who died knew their abuser. We call it child abuse fatalities, and as awful as that sounds, it does not sound as awful as murder. We look for words that are softer to describe these heinous acts.
Child abuse happens in Oregon. Child abuse happens in Jackson County.
The foster parent shortage that has been reported on is not just in other parts of the state. It is here in our county as well.
This is not someone else’s problem. It is ours. The problem has been long established. What isn’t as clear, is the solution.
How do we make a meaningful impact? Where is the catchy child abuse slogan? You know…like the “War on Drugs” or “No Child Left Behind”. Where is the rally cry to help keep kids safe from the dangers that lurk within their own homes?
People who work in the field of child abuse; particularly those who work in prevention, joke about “working themselves out of a job” and “putting the CAC out of business”. It is a good goal. But where is the rally cry? These of course are rhetorical questions. Unless you have an actual answer. Then I am all ears!
There are things that you can do all year long…..long after April has ended. You can:
- Find an agency that helps to protect children and support them in any way you can. If you can’t donate money, then donate time and talent. Nonprofit agencies are quite adept at leveraging whatever your gift is, with other gifts, to create the biggest impact.
- If you suspect abuse, make a report–even if it feels uncomfortable or even if you are unsure. The professionals will figure it out. You don’t have to figure it out.
- Not sure what abuse looks like? Take a training on recognizing abuse. The CAC of Jackson County offers several opportunities, either through our Protect Our Children program or through other offerings such as Responding to Allegations of Child Maltreatment offered this May. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/kwm6qx5
- Do you see a mom or a dad struggling? Offer to help.
- Let your legislative representatives know that children and child abuse is a priority for you and you want it to be their priority as well—both at the state and federal level.
- You can change the conversation from “Why didn’t she tell?” to “Why did he do that?”
- You can become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and learn how to advocate for children in the foster care system. We have hundreds of children on a waiting list right now who need an advocate.
- You can teach your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your neighbor’s child — all the children in your life — who is allowed to touch what part of their bodies and under what circumstance.
- You can tell the adults in your life that your child is off limits by being present, by asking the right questions, and by staying in tuned and attentive to your child. If an offender knows you are watching and vigilant, it makes your child less accessible to them.
You can STOP saying Not My Child; Not My Problem.