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Child Abuse is Everyone's Business

By: Dr. Kitsy Dixon Special to NJ.com
06/20/2014, 11:22 AM

I once witnessed a father severely beat his daughter in a local supermarket. He dragged her, by her hair, out of the supermarket and continued to kick and spit on her as she screamed and fought back with all of her might. The fight ended and both the father and the daughter got into their family van and drove away. Everyone in the small supermarket went back to their routine shopping as if nothing happened. I turned to my roommate and whispered, “we should do something,” to which she replied, “it is none of our business.” Eight years later, the memory of that day still haunts me.

The common phrase of “what goes on in this family stays in this family,” creates an atmosphere of acceptability when it comes to child abuse. However, child abuse carries long term psychological effects and the more we turn away from its reality in our society, we close our minds to being educated on the horrors of child abuse.

According to Professor of Sociology, Nancy Whittier, as recently as 1970, child abuse was seen as extremely rare and unusually harmful. The fight to have various types of child abuse acknowledged on the political agenda has taken decades of work. A number of organizations and activists have come together to reiterate that the social defining and understanding of the context of various types of child abuse have been neglected in research, community discussions, and personal testimony.

There have been a number of recognitions brought to the social table about addressing child abuse, but it continues to be the most difficult subject to speak about. The month of April has been designated child abuse awareness month, but activists will argue that not enough is done to promote the awareness of how prevalent child abuse is. The rapid rise of addressing child abuse in the national media has been, in large part, due to the mobilization of activist groups, but the instance of unreported cases of child abuse continues to rise.

What is important in addressing child abuse is recognizing that it happens every day of the year, not just the month of April. Secondly, statistics estimate that a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds, and that four or more children die every day as a result of child abuse. Thirdly, child abuse is our business because when we stand by and ignore the signs of child abuse, we partake in the problem instead of the solution.
 Therefore, the question becomes– how do ‘I’ become part of the solution? Glad you asked:

Debunk Myths Surrounding Child Abuse
 Some of the common myths surrounding child about is that it is only sexual and that it happens in specific neighborhoods of lower socio-economic status. The truth is that there are different types of child abuse but society primarily concentrates on child sexual abuse. Child abuse can happen to anyone.

Understand the Different Types of Abuse
 The four types of abuse are: emotional, child neglect, physical, and child sexual abuse.
• Emotional child abuse – constant belittling of a child.
• Child neglect – failing to provide a child’s basic needs.
• Physical child abuse – deliberate physical harm to a child.
• Child sexual abuse – exposing a child to sexual situations.

Research State Statutes on Child Abuse in Your State
 You can find information on how New Jersey defines child abuse and statistical information on referrals, programs, prevention, and volunteer opportunities. Visit your Department of Family and Children website for current information.

Report Child Abuse
 Although discussing child abuse can carry a stigma, reporting it only makes you a hero. The ChildHelp National Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week servicing the United States, its territories, and Canada. 1-800-422-4453.

Create Dialog by Being Involved
 Discover local resources in your area to help promote awareness of child abuse all year long. The following are resources in the state of New Jersey:
• New Jersey Child Assault Prevention (NJCAP)
• Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey
• The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey
• National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

At the end of the day, we all want a society where the children are free to have the opportunities of becoming great leaders of this world without the fear of child abuse.

Together, we can confront child abuse through education and advocacy, every day, not just the month of April.