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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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.





Happy International Women’s Day!

8 03 2013

Borrowing from another excellent message distributed today by Miss Representation (www.missrepresentation.org), here’s a reminder to think about change as we celebrate women and girls in all their potential…

toddlers and tiaras

Today is International Women’s Day, so let’s take this collective moment to pledge to end the oppression of women worldwide – in all its forms. Let’s pledge to end not only the overt violence directed at women daily, but the institutional sexism holding us back and the destructive representations of women in the media which contribute to that same culture of negating women and denying them their equal seat at the tables of power. After all, as long as the media hypersexualizes and objectifies women, they normalize treating women as second-class citizens and objects for the male gaze, which further contributes to violence against women.

Katy Couric

We encourage you to spend this special day not only supporting those organizations creating change in the treatment of women globally, but thinking personally about how you can make an impact on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Each of us can play a small part in transforming the way our culture views, values, and treats women and girls.





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.





This Valentine’s Day, spread the love and spread the word

8 02 2013

www.missrepresentation.orgLast Sunday, during the biggest media event of the year, supporters of Miss Representation came together to put sexism in advertising in the spotlight and make it a topic of conversation. As a result, over 4 million people heard or saw their critiques of Super Bowl commercials and their message was picked up by numerous major news outlets, including CNN and National Public Radio (NPR). As a result, countless thousands have been inspired to be more aware of the representations of gender they consume daily. That’s what I love about Miss Representation – they’re continually bringing solid information to new audiences what are then able to decide for themselves about the values that are important to them.

Go Daddy alone received more than 7,500 tweets in just 5 hours concerning their stereotypical and demeaning Super Bowl ad. This was accomplished by thousands of individuals deciding to take a break from watching the big game to use their consumer voice to let advertisers know: when it comes to using sexism to sell, we’re #NotBuyingIt! (that’s the Miss Representation campaign, by the way).

And it works. After Teleflora’s highly offensive and degrading Super Bowl commercial, which implied that women would exchange sex with any man who could afford a few flowers, hundreds of folks took to Twitter to express their dismay and disgust. In a show of the increasing ability of social media to create real change, Harrod’s in London removed two children’s books from their children’s reading room after users on Twitter, with the help of the #NotBuyingIt hashtag, let the store know that the items promoted gender stereotypes.

Next Thursday, on Valentine’s Day, Miss Representation is helping to coordinate another effort aimed at showing what we’re capable of when we band together under a common cause. On February 14th, Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization is organizing one billion women, and those who love them, to rise up and demand an end to violence against women.obr_logo-web

“Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.”

The worldwide event, One Billion Rising, is being held in cities and towns across the globe, and will feature performances, dances and women speaking out against violence in unity. To find out more, go to http://www.onebillionrising.org – and if you haven’t already become familiar with Miss Representation, visit their site at http://www.missrepresentation.org.

The Valentine’s Day, spread the love and spread the word – 1 billion women violated is an atrocity. 1 billion women dancing is a revolution.





Campaign officially launched…and you can help!

9 04 2012

The Community Child Abuse Council’s Heart of the Open campaign kicked off officially today, beginning an unprecedented effort to raise funds in support of child abuse education, prevention, and treatment programs. Details about the campaign – and how you can help – are  posted on the Council’s web site: www.childabusecouncil.on.ca.

 

In partnership with the 2012 RBC Canadian Open, the Council is selling “inside the ropes” experience packages, corporate hospitality packages, and group tickets that get golf fans up close and into the action for the RBC Canadian Open’s return to the Hamilton Golf & Country Club, July 23-29. The Council’s team of volunteers will also be on-site at the tournament selling reuseable water bottles and purple awareness ribbons. Proceeds from all campaign activities will support vital prevention, education and treatment programs for child and youth victims of abuse and trauma.

A sizeable lead-off gift from RBC will enable the Council to enhance its current programs and services, but our community has an opportunity to join with RBC and realize an even greater result by supporting the Council’s campaign. Children as young as 3 years of age are currently waiting several months for trauma treatment, and the education and prevention initiatives so crucial to fighting child abuse are in need of financial investment. Remember, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually victimized before reaching adulthood. Here in the Hamilton area, that translates into a significant

number whose lives are affected – shouldn’t we be able to help each and every one of them?

We may never see another opportunity like this one to respond as a community and invest in the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable members – please check out the many ways you can help to support the campaign, and help the Council in its efforts to create a community free of child abuse

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The Heart of the OPEN

1 04 2012

The eyes of the golfing world will be on Hamilton this July as the RBC Canadian Open returns to the Hamilton Golf & Country Club.

But the heart of the Open, this year, is linked to helping child and youth victims of sexual abuse and trauma here in our community. RBC has chosen the Community Child Abuse Council as the Local Charity Partner for the 2012 RBC Canadian Open, and committed a sizeable financial investment to help the organization in its mission – to reduce the incidence and impact of child abuse and to promote the safe and healthy development of children. This is truly a gift wrapped in hope, and represents a significant opportunity for this community to make great strides in its support of vulnerable and victimized youngsters. By supporting the Council in its partnership with the RBC Canadian Open, the Hamilton region has an unprecedented chance to turn an already generous donation from RBC into something bigger – and to see the legacy of the 2012 Canadian Open be a lasting one for local children’s mental health.

The Council is about to launch a fundraising drive – The Heart of the OPEN Campaign – to engage the support of the community and to involve Hamiltonians in this partnership with RBC and the Canadian Open. Some of the campaign’s activities are directly tied to the Open, including advance ticket sales, exclusive VIP and “inside the ropes” experience packages, and on-site sales. Limited edition hats will be sold in area RBC branches in the weeks leading up to the Open with proceeds going to the campaign. Other campaign efforts are bringing together some of RBC’s corporate clients, community leaders, and friends of the Council in a range of fundraising initiatives aimed at demonstrating that the Hamilton community can and will step up to support child abuse prevention, education, and treatment in partnership with RBC.

Campaign proceeds will help enhance treatment programs for child and youth victims of sexual abuse, expand parent support groups, and invest in proven prevention initiatives. The Community Child Abuse Council is unique in providing these specialized services in the Hamilton community, and continuously works to increase its capacity so that all children needing this help can receive it. A waiting list for treatment has been an ongoing challenge, with children as young as 3 years of age often waiting several months for clinical services. A robust campaign success will also enable the Council to secure a permanent home for its programs and services.

Statistics show that one in three girls and one in six boys is sexually victimized before reaching adulthood. In Hamilton, Chief Glenn De Caire of Hamilton Police Service has publicly referred to rising rates of sexual assaults against children and women, and child pornography, as “troubling” given otherwise declining rates of violent crime in the city. The trauma resulting from sexual victimization can have a lifelong and significant impact if not treated early and effectively. The scars of abuse can last decades and can impact generations.

The 2012 RBC Canadian Open will be held July 23-29 at Hamilton Golf & Country Club

An energetic campaign team comprised of volunteers from all corners of the community is now hard at work to ensure the success of this fundraising initiative. Their efforts, along with the generosity of RBC, bring much-needed attention to child maltreatment and a vital financial investment in the future of local children and youth.  To find out more about The Heart of the OPEN Campaign, to volunteer, or to support the cause, watch the Council’s web site for details ( www.childabusecouncil.on.ca). If you’re a golfer, a golf fan, or know others who are, you can help make the excitement of the Open (July 23 – 29 last long after the trophy has been claimed and the crowds have dispersed…be part of the Open and please support the Council’s campaign and help to make sure the legacy left by the 2012 RBC Canadian Open is one that invests in children and youth well into the future. If we as a community can match RBC’s investment we can take huge strides that are long overdue. Thank you!