Unacceptable realities…points to ponder

29 08 2014

Something more personal for this post…an update after a considerable hiatus from blogging. I blame Facebook, in part, because of the distraction it provided to this newby. It took several months to discover what I really wanted to get from the site, and how to make my participation meaningful. But it has been my busy professional life that has taken most of my time and attention. Always rewarding, at times frustrating, ever changing, it both commands my full attention while I’m “in it” and necessitates downtime that is just that.

The sexual abuse of children continues to make headlines, along with these same crimes against women. Issues of gender inequality, gender-based violence, exploitation, pornography, cyber bullying, rape culture, sexting, and the debate over the educational curriculum for sexuality and human relations have become so commonplace in news reports that I worry we are numbing to their seriousness. And, on most days, I am hard-pressed to understand how these vitally important issues are not front and centre in our political and public policy discussions. These very issues are the bedrock of my work, each and every day. I notice the headlines, pay attention to the news coverage, am saddened by the disclosures, and outraged by the appalling lack of change. These constant reminders of the work still to be done creep into my off-work hours, make regular appearances in my dreams, and urge me onward. No, I am not obsessed or inappropriately burdened by these unacceptable realities. I manage to keep a healthy (most days) balance. But these remain unacceptable realities.

A friend told me recently that there was a disturbing pattern to many of my posts on Facebook. He said he understood why so many of my posts related to the issues that relate to my professional work, but he “just couldn’t read all of them” and found many of them “too disturbing”. And, sadly, I know he’s not the only one.

So, by way of updating this blog and sharing what has been keeping me busy of late, here are a few points to ponder:

  • today, here in my own community (as in many others), 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually victimized before their 18th birthday
  • in Hamilton, the city I am so proud to live in, overall violent crime has decreased but not sexual crimes against women and children or child pornography
  • the agency I lead, the Community Child Abuse Council, employs the equivalent of 3.2 full-time staff and a team of consulting clinicians who provide direct trauma treatment to children and youth experiencing the trauma that results from sexual abuse – we have a perpetual wait list
  • we also work to address the unique mental health needs of immigrant and refugee children and youth who are experiencing symptoms of trauma – from war-torn countries, experiences in refugee camps, violence, loss, and upheaval – there is a waiting list for this program too
  • we turn every dollar provided by government towards these services into $1.70 – in blunt terms, we spend a significant amount of time and energy raising money to serve the children who need our help, and on any given day the provision of these crucial services may well depend on bake sales and raffles
  • the Council has an incredibly generous circle of supporters with whom I am in regular contact  – their commitment to making sure these essential services are available to youngsters in our community is beyond admirable, yet they are but a tiny proportion of the caring population in Hamilton

children_threatsI share these points not to claim any undue burden or regret – I love the work I am doing and I could not be more committed to this cause. I share these points for consideration by people like my friend who bristled at the content of my posts on Facebook. Or for any readers of this blog who may have wondered why I had been absent of late. I share them because it is important to me that the nature of the Council’s work be understood – an entire community’s response to the sexual abuse of children and youth is resting almost exclusively on the shoulders of one small agency. How fortunate we are to have an exceptionally specialized and seasoned clinical team of experts doing this work. How wonderful it is to know that this agency is accomplishing great things on a daily basis thanks to the tireless efforts of staff who care deeply and volunteers who are passionate. How reassuring to know that the Board of Directors at the Council is comprised of individuals with integrity, careful stewards of public funds, and diligent ambassadors for a cause far too often overshadowed.

Yes, many days I am tired. And I do get frustrated. But I continue to give my all to this remarkable organization and the youngsters it serves because the work we are doing is making a difference. Every day I see the results of treatment programs that are effective. And every day I am fortunate to be around some of the bravest young people you’ll ever meet. They are what matters. Helping them to get beyond the trauma, heal and move forward, that is what counts. We believe thriving children create thriving communities, so everything we do to help our young clients get back on track is ultimately an investment in the future of our community. That inspires me, that commands my attention, and that keeps me focused.

If you find me posting a recipe or a travel link on Facebook, you’ll know it’s been an especially good day.

Postcript:

To date, the most-searched phrase that lands visitors here on my web site is “children girls porn”. Sadly ironic, and another reason for this important work to not only continue but to knock it out of the park. You can help – have a conversation, share resources, point others towards these issues, support the work that is so important to ensuring our youngest community members can go on to be thriving, contributing future leaders.

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