Daily Archives: March 8, 2010

Social Justice Challenge: Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

This month’s theme for The Social Justice Challenge is Child Abuse and Domestic Violence.

Natasha is asking a few questions to get us started:

  • What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of domestic violence and child abuse?
  • What does domestic violence and child abuse mean to you personally?
  • What is your current knowledge of domestic violence and child abuse?
  • Are you aware of the resources available for men, women and children who find themselves in domestic violence and child abuse situations?
  • Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month?
  • Take some time and think about what potential action steps you could take.  (I’ll have a post dedicated to this shortly).

Before I became a Physical Therapist, I worked with children in a residential treatment center. I worked with girls, under the age of 13, who were so emotionally and behaviorally disturbed they had to live in an institutional setting. Many were on strong, psychotropic medications. All of them had one thing in common – they were victims of severe child abuse, primarily sexual abuse, which had begun (for most of them) before they were school age. These were kids that at very young ages had been raped, molested, beaten, choked, starved, and neglected.

It was heartbreaking.

I lived that job.

I could not put it to rest.

I still, more than 20 years later, have photos of the kids I worked with tucked into my bedside table. I wonder where they are today – how many are in mental hospitals? Dead? In prison? Living on the streets? How many were able to overcome their severe abuse to go on and live a normal life? I will never know. And it haunts me. Child abuse is one of the worst crimes. It targets our most vulnerable and innocent members of society.

So, the theme of child abuse is one which is important to me. I intend to participate fully in this month’s theme.

Unfortunately I know a lot about child abuse from my work with abused kids. I also am a mandated reporter as I am a health care professional…and I’ve had to make several reports to Child Protective Services over the years when I have encountered situations in my work which require me to take action. There are times I do not want to learn more about this subject – but without knowledge, how can we protect children? How can we make our communities safer?

Books I am considering reading:

I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, edited by Ellen Bass and Louise Thornton who write in their preface…’Our primary hope for this anthology is that the sexually abused child will come to understand that she can tell. In this telling, she can reclaim her innocence. She is innocent. She has always been innocent. Botht he burden of the crime and the crime itself are lifted from her shoulders. She can tell.

Ellen Foster, by Kate Gibbons – a novel whose 11 year old protagonist is a victim of abuse and neglect.

Say You’re One of Them, by Uwem Akpan – a short story collection. The flap on the book reads: ‘Every story is a testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing situations our planet can offer.‘ The stories include themes of child sex slavery and abuse.

Action Step:

There are multiple organizations which address the issues of child abuse and domestic violence. I have yet to decide what my action step will be, but I am looking closely at the following:

Raising public awareness through the organization Darkness to Light whose mission is to raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.

Exploring possibilities through the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) which ‘serves as the nation’s principle information and resource center regarding all aspects of sexual violence. It provides national leadership, consultation and technical assistance by generating and facilitating the development and flow of information on sexual violence intervention and prevention strategies. The NSVRC works to address the causes and impact of sexual violence through collaboration, prevention efforts and the distribution of resources.

I hope you’ll visit The Social Justice Challenge blog and check out links to other participant posts on this subject.