Silence is toxic
We do not prevent child abuse by accepting it. We do not prevent it by being shy, embarrassed, or quiet about it. We prevent it by speaking out, asking questions, finding answers, and advocating for those who need us most, our kids. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we need to talk about it. We need to talk about what is happening to kids in our communities and beyond. We need to talk about why some parents mistreat the ones they love the most. We need to talk about why we, as a community, must remain vigilant in protecting all our children.
Not talking about child abuse is not a solution. Not acting to prevent child abuse is not an option. Every time we accept child abuse as being a part of life, kids suffer. Kids die. Families are damaged, often beyond repair, and futures are destroyed. We can do better, if we chose to listen, learn, and speak out in defense of kids, teens, and families everywhere. We cannot rely on politicians or experts alone. Everyone needs to take a stand to protect children from abuse and neglect. It takes the united voices of our communities to enact real change. It takes a village is a cliché for a reason because it is true.
The foremost thing we can do is become informed about both the problems and the potential solutions. The information is out there, strewn across the internet, but many just do not know the questions to ask or where to look. We are also trapped into an ideology that abusive parents are more criminal than misguided. Granted, criminal abuse does exist and should be dealt with, but for most, things are often more complicated.
Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers are not well versed in parenting and do not always understand or accept the harm they are doing or allowing to be done. They often rely on past experiences of how they were raised or the advice of other caregivers who lack a modern understanding of contemporary child-rearing strategies and techniques. Many are trapped by fear of consequences or the actions of others. This often leads to generational damage to families that not only harm kids but teaches them lessons they may carry forward into their own adult lives.
Additionally, many families exist under social and economic conditions that lay unprecedented levels of stress on caregivers, who often do not know how to cope with the situations they find themselves in or the raw emotions that grow out of the events and circumstances of their lives. Children frequently become innocent victims when parents, unable to cope, lash out. While unacceptable, we need to find solutions that deliver meaningful healing to families desperately in need of empathy and guidance.
According to Cassidy Meehan, Director of Social-Emotional Learning at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley, “Research has definitively shown that children have better life outcomes when they can remain home with their parents. We are in a time where professionals are working to find a balance between keeping the children in our communities safe, while also honoring and supporting parents. More and more, professional communities are acknowledging that parenting is hard. It can be frustrating, time consuming, and exhausting.” Punitive consequences alone seldom create positive change. A more proactive approach is long overdue.
We need to educate ourselves about child abuse and the solutions we can create that will minimize the problems that allow it to manifest in troubled families. Web-based resources like www.childwelfare.gov and www.healthychildren.org are a good first step towards being better informed. Websites like www.cdc.gov/parents and www.childdevelopmentinfo.com provide strategies and support for parents who need help.
Reach out. Ask questions. Call for help. Parents Helping Parents has a 24/7 Parent Stress Line at 1-800-632-8188 and the San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group’s Emergency Service Line is 719-589-3671. Use them to get the help you need. Local organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs, Tu Casa, Inc., and others, help community members find local resources that help those in need. If there is harm or the threat of harm, always call 911.
When our children suffer, we all suffer. By providing families with resources, be it job training, food assistance, or warm winter coats, we strengthen our community and create the potential for positive futures for generations to come. Ask questions that matter. Advocate for kids, families, and communities. Do not let silence win. Start talking.
David James Hargis is a Marketing & Resource Development Specialist with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].