April is child abuse prevention month. The ribbon color for child abuse prevention is dark blue (we wouldn't be a cause if we didn't have a ribbon, right?). Throughout the nation, people concerned with the prevention of child abuse are doning blue ribbons and setting up tables in malls, farmer's markets, grocery stores and any other place that will have us, to pass out ribbons, literature and try to remind people of the prevelance of child abuse, the importance of preventing it, and the role each and every one of us can play in protecting children.
I just got back from a beautiful day outside at the farmer's market, where I got my first sunburn of the year and got to interact with the masses about this most important of topics. I don't usually relish tabeling, but today was great. What follows are some of the highlights of my tabeling exeriences. Hopefully, this will provide readers with some entertainment, and perhaps impart a little etiquite.
1) "Will you watch my kid for a minute?"- Really? You are entrusting your flesh and blood to the care of a perfect stranger. True, I'm in a public place, true, I'm promoting the prevention of child abuse and positive parenting. But that doesn't mean you should trust me.
2) Do you know where the bathrooms are?- Yes, but what would you do the other eleven months of the year?
3) Would you call CPS for me if I tell you about this situation?- No, and here’s why- third-party calls to CPS are pretty useless. No matter what details you give, CPS is bound to want to ask questions, and if I’ve never seen the family first hand, I simply can’t answer them. If I call, and you’re standing next to me, feeding me information, why can’t you make the call yourself? I realize that the decision to call CPS, especially if your calling on someone in your own family, can be agonizing. I’ll address that in another blog. Incidently, the first time I ever set up an informational table, I was convinced that I could make a living doing third-person reporting, as there seems to be so much of a desire for it.
4) I hate you guys because you took my husband’s kids away from him…OK, I personally, have never had anything to do with removing a child from custody of anyone. I do not work for an agency that does. I volunteer for a not-for-profit that strives to prevent child abuse from happening in the first place. That NFP does not have the power to remove children from anyone’s custody. As an aside, one time I wanted to have a community open-house about child abuse, and one componant of that I was interested in was having represented was CPS. So I made some calls, and finally I got ahold of the woman who could authorize such an event. It turned out that every time in the past that they had tried to do educational outreach, people in the audience got confrontational that it traumatized the CPS workers. So they made a policy against doing educational work, thereby forcing an organization that is shrouded in misunderstanding and animosity to not be able to educate the community about their role.
5) I hate you guys because you didn’t take my neighbor’s kids away from them after I called twice!- refer to #4
6) "Daddy, what's that mean?" (as the child points to a flyer that says "preventing child sexual abuse") Dad then says "never mind".
If you want to keep your child from being sexually abused, or want to keep it from ruining their life if it does happen, you need to talk to your children about what it is, who does it, and what to do if it happens to them. www.darkness2light.org is probably the best place for information about this. But I can give this advice- talk to your children about child sexual abuse a lot. Just like you talk about nutrition, fire safety, etc. Make sure the emphasis is on the abuse, not the sexual part- children need to feel comfortable setting boundries with their bodies, and they need to understand the normal boundries between adults and children. For example, forcing a child to watch an adult mastrubate, or watch pornography, can be harmful to a child, and is often something a predator will do before they attempt physical, sexual contact with a child. If someone does this to your child, you want your child to understand that this is wrong and tell you before something even worse happens. Help them understand why its wrong- no one has a right to hurt your body, adults have more power and strength than kids, sex is for two people who chose to be together in a special relationship. There are always stories about child sexual abuse in the news. Use these as jumping-off points with your kids. If you talk about this enough with your kids, you let them know that child sexual abuse happens, it isn't something shameful, and it's something you, as a parent, can handle. If your child doesn't think you can handle learning that they've been sexually abused, they won't tell you. But if you don't think that piece of knowledge is something you can handle, how do you think your child is going to cope with it, without your help?
If I'm spending time trying to help parents learn about preventing child abuse, and I see a parent thwarting my efforts, how ever unintentionally, I'm going to get a little peeved.
1) Thank you, you’re doing important work! -You're welcome! Everyone likes being thanked, as rewarding as the work is for them.