Child abuse is a community issue. It happens in every city, every town, every zip code. Without community involvement, the problem will continue. This is a guest post from Community Activist Elijah Lee who is working to put an end to child abuse by raising awareness for child abuse prevention and intervention.
For centuries, across our entire world, children of every age have experienced pain, hurt, abandonment, and loneliness. For centuries, children have been subject to what we now call child abuse. Child abuse can often be categorized into two primary arenas, neglect and abuse. Child neglect is when a parent or guardian of a child fails to provide the necessary resources for a child to maintain a healthy life. These resources include food, water, living spaces, clothing, and safety. While this seems rather textbook, child neglect is so much more than simply not feeding a child. It could be putting a child in a dangerous situation or fostering a negative environment. It could also be turning a blind eye when you see that a child, whom you are tasked with protecting, is getting abused.
Child abuse is more publicized mostly because it is easier to identify. Child abuse is when an adult intentionally harms a child. Child abuse comes in many forms, as it could be physical, which is where we see punching, biting, beating, or causing physical pain. Child abuse can also be mental and verbal, which are often linked. This involves the use of words to degrade and dehumanize a child, leading the child to have invisible wounds. While there are no obvious markers, these wounds can sometimes hurt the worst. Lastly, one of the most common forms of child abuse is sexual. Unfortunately, this extends beyond simply bad touch; this is the violation of young people when their innocence is stolen by someone who is oftentimes supposed to protect and care for them.
It is important to lay this foundation because if we do not recognize what child abuse is, then it is impossible for us to take the necessary actions to prevent and address child abuse in our communities. For too long, we as a society have subscribed to the notion that we would rather ignore child abuse because of the fear of getting into others’ business, so much so that we have put the lives of children in jeopardy. We have refused to have conversations about child abuse, simply because it is a tough topic to talk about. We have all made the conscious choice to simply look the other way. Whether it is in the grocery store, in a place of worship, or even a neighbor next door, child abuse exists everywhere. While this may seem insignificant, those small interactions with everyday people, our willful ignorance is destroying our young people.
There is an old African proverb that says when a child is not embraced by the village, it will burn it down to feel its warmth. Right now, our village is burning. Every day, we see another act of violence in our community. Our young people are continuing to struggle with their mental health. Substance use disorder continues to rise, leading to substantial impacts on younger generations. Young people are beginning to feel less and less safe in everyday locations like their homes and schools. This is all in combination with the sad fact that the cycle is repeating itself.
Studies show that children who are abused are more likely to abuse other children unless there is an interruption. We as a community are that interruption. For every student, for every young person in your place of worship, for every young patient, you must be that interruption. This is why I am so appreciative of non-profit organizations like One Place, who are dedicated to being an interruption. One Place has committed to not only being a safe haven for young people experiencing abuse but to ensuring the entire community can be that safe haven. They are able to provide a plethora of resources from their trauma-informed staff to their family-based programs; they are here to truly serve the young people in Onslow County, North Carolina, and surrounding areas.
While it is easy to rely on the resources One Place provides, they cannot do it alone. It is the role of every single person in the community to take action to prevent child abuse and intervene when you see something. I first learned about child abuse when a friend of mine confided in me at school. Thankfully, I had teachers who were willing to walk us through and save that child’s life. Right now, I am calling on every single teacher to do the same. I know teachers are overworked and underpaid, however, being willing to create a safe space in the classroom, establish reporting procedures, and be a trusted adult to your students makes the world of difference.
While teachers are able to address issues within the classroom, it is up to the entire community to band together and bring an end to child abuse. It is the job of parents to have conversations with their children so they are prepared to help others if needed. It is the job of faith leaders to foster a positive environment and be a safe haven for young people who may be experiencing abuse. It is the role of elected officials to not only set the expectations for a community but also lead by example by investing in child abuse intervention and prevention. In summary, it is the job of everyone to play their part in protecting children.
As I have said, child abuse is a difficult topic. It is easy to turn our heads, look the other way, and mind our business. However, we cannot afford to do that any longer. Too many children have already been taken too soon. I urge everyone to go out, have conversations, establish a safe environment, and ensure the safety of the young people around you.
Become part of a community of people working to end child abuse and change the future for children. Find out how you can get involved with One Place.
Join us at Diamonds & Denim on September 23rd for an evening of networking, bites, sips, and celebration while raising critical funds for child abuse prevention and intervention efforts in Onslow County. Click here to reserve your sponsorship now.