Equip children to fight abuse

Published 8:27 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April marks the 26th anniversary of child abuse prevention month. But why is child abuse prevention still so important after all this time?

Perhaps the answer lies in some startling numbers: More than 1,500 children died as a result of child abuse and neglect in 2006; nearly 45 percent of those fatalities were to children under 3 years old. These children were barely given a chance to live, and their deaths were probably preventable.

However, even children who survive or witness abuse suffer physically and mentally. In fact, research has shown that abusive acts against children increase the chance that they will use violence in future relationships.

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This could be due in part to the fact that child abuse has been linked to the inability to cope with stress in later life. A lack of coping skills, mixed with high stress levels and a background of abusive behaviors is the perfect recipe for a future generation of abuse. This cycle can continue from generation to generation if nothing is done about it.

Therefore, we must use the knowledge that we possess to help children help themselves. We must use every available opportunity to educate children about the harmful effects of abuse. We must teach them how to be safe, how to know when help is needed and how to seek out help for themselves and their peers.

Additionally, parents need to take responsibility for their roles in children’s lives. Parenting classes and community support are two resources that parents can utilize to improve and educate themselves and reduce the risk of abuse.

It may be too late to completely erase the abuse of the past, but it is never too late to put preventative practices into play in order to help adults and children create a more harmonious future together.

During the month of April, The Genieve Shelter in Suffolk will be spreading the word about child abuse prevention through bookmarks at local libraries, and a display board will be set up for viewing at the Franklin YMCA, along with other locations.