Child Abuse Prevention Month

1 10 2014

October once again marks Child Abuse Prevention month here in Ontario, and sadly not much has changed since last year at this time. The pending transformation of children’s mental health by the provincial government promises to bring improvements, and we wait and watch for those with significant hopes.

In the meantime, the United Nations has released two new reports – Hidden In Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children (with global figures and data from 190 countries), and Ending Violence Against Children: Six strategies for action (with case studies from around the globe). Both are part of UNICEF’s #ENDviolence against children initiative.

You can find copies of both reports here: http://www.unicef.org/protection/

endviolenceThis month, as you consider the state of the world’s children, please remember that right here at home 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually victimized before their 18th birthday. We absolutely must change that. Let your elected representatives at all levels of government know that you consider this to be a vital issue. Speak up for additional resources to be invested in child abuse prevention and treatment, and encourage others to do the same.





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.





1 in 3 Canadian Adults Have Experienced Child Abuse: New Study

23 04 2014

child abuse report

 

A just-published, first of  its kind study has found what many in the field have known for some time – child abuse has a lasting impact on many Canadians. This new research confirms the link between serious adult mental health problems and experiences of childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse, and witnessing intimate partner violence.

Findings from the national study highlight the urgent need for a child abuse prevention strategy in Canada. Lead author Tracie Afifi of the University of Manitoba told CBC News that her team’s findings “indicate that 32 per cent of the adult population in Canada has experienced child abuse (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse and/or exposure to intimate partner violence) and that child abuse has robust associations with mental conditions”.

The study, published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found physical abuse to be most common (26%), followed by sexual abuse (10%) and exposure to intimate partner violence (8%). The authors highlight the need for reporting child abuse as well as understanding treatment implications.

To read the full journal article, visit www.cmaj.ca

 





Talking about children…

17 04 2014

ngugi_wa_thiongo“Talking about the survival of children is not an act of charity. Children are the future of any society. If you want to know the future of any society look at the eyes of the children. If you want to maim the future of any society, you simply maim the children. Thus the struggle for the survival of our children is the struggle for the survival of our future. The quantity and quality of that survival is the measurement of the development of our society.”

Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o





October is Child Abuse Prevention Month

12 10 2013

Lots going on this month to remind us that child abuse needs our ongoing attention, as well as providing us with opportunities to help out and support the cause…

VOTE

Check out the AVIVA Community Fund competition where $1,000,000 is up for grabs and help to support the Community Child Abuse Council of Canada by voting (daily) for the Child Abuse Prevention and Parent Support Program. Just register, then sign in daily and vote: http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf17152

CHECK OUT THE MUSIC

BTown Sound in Burlington is hosting another of its popular acoustic nights on October 18th – free admission, proceeds from the cash bar, live and silent auctions to the Community Child Abuse Council of Canada. Up for auction: autographed ukelele from hot indie band Walk Off The Earth! Details on their web site: www.btownsound.ca

USE YOUR VOICE

Have a conversation about child abuse – we can’t stop it if we aren’t talking about it.

AND MORE…

Please take a moment to see what else is happening, get informed, make a donation, and find out about other ways you can help: www.childabusecouncil.on.ca

(aviary.com)

(aviary.com)





Theo, Victor, and a walk to Ottawa

12 05 2013

As we honour mothers today, one mother’s son is preparing for a journey that would make any parent proud.

On May 14, former NHL star Theo Fleury will begin a walk that will take him from Toronto to Ottawa. He plans to arrive in the capital on May 23rd, and will be heading to Parliament.

Why?

victor-the-frogTheo Fleury is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Actually, he’s a Victor over childhood sexual abuse. And that’s why his walk to Ottawa is being billed as The Victor Walk. You can check out his web site to learn more about this brave undertaking, and why it’s called the “Victor” walk (you’ll also meet Victor, a cool symbol for this project with a great story behind it): www.victorwalk.com

Canadians are encouraged to line his route, show their support, and lend their voices to his journey (or join a local walk if one is being held in your community). Those able to meet him in Ottawa can take part in the finish of his walk and help to deliver a message to Parliament in support of Theo’s quest to put these crimes against children on the national agenda – a message about healing and advocacy that is important for us all to embrace.

Here’s wishing Theo and his team the very best for their 10-day trek. And thanks, Theo, for standing as a leader in this vital conversation.





Child sexual abuse in the news headlines…again

15 02 2013

On the eve of the Family Day long weekend here in Ontario, sexual crimes against children are once again prominent in news headlines. Very prominent. Today’s newscasts are featuring at least four major stories, among them:

  • child pornography charges laid against a Halton teacher
  • an RCMP officer and his wife charged in a shocking child abuse case now unfolding in Ottawa
  • Coronation Street TV star accused of 19 child sexual offences dating from 2001 – 2010
  • Manitoba Court of Appeal lengthens sentence for convicted child sex offender and former hockey coach Graham James (increased from 2 years to 5 years)

BROKEN TRUSTThese cases echo the broken trust that so often surfaces in sexual crimes against children. All instances of sexual abuse are unacceptable, but those committed by adults in positions of trust or authority, including teachers, police officers, coaches, parents, and celebrities, are betrayals of the worst kind. They raise questions not only about those who would perpetrate these worst of assaults against innocence, but also about the failings of society’s efforts to protect vulnerable children.

This Family Day, how about asking what more we can do to value children? If we believe children are indeed the future, and if we recognize that crimes against them ultimately are crimes against tomorrow’s hopes and aspirations, then this seems the right track to changing how children are viewed and treated. If everyone valued children – honoured them and protected them – what would change? Would we find new thinking or effective ideas that could be harnessed in order to nurture these seeds of the future? Could we better understand and address the threats and expose the root causes that have led us to a point in history when the youngest among us face so many dangers? Certainly seems worthwhile asking the questions.

Happy Family Day.