Monday, April 4, 2016

Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

This month, the talk gets real. People don't like to talk about it, exposing some of the deeper, hidden shames in our society, but let me be clear:

Child Abuse exists and it is far more prevalent than you may think.

In the 2014-2015 year, in the state of Virginia alone, almost 50 000 children were reported as possible cases of abuse or neglect, 6 500 of them having enough evidence to be considered a founded report. (CASA of Central VA Fact Sheet)

In one year, in a state of 8.5 million people, 6 500 children were reported, with enough evidence, of being abused.

Sure, that's less than 0.1% of the state population, but that's 6 500 children who will become adults. That's 6 500 children who were fortunate enough that someone realised that abuse was happening and was able to gather evidence thereof. For each one of those children there are unknown others who are being abused or neglected, many, majority, of them by family members.

In my small city of Lynchburg, and its surrounding area, there are currently over 500 children reported as being abused.

Child abuse has lasting ramifications - and I don't just mean on mental health (See a couple immediate examples) and the perpetuation of abuse to future generations. The CDC is currently conducting an ongoing study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), an inventory of 10 indicators of childhood trauma, and their prevalence (~ 65% of the US population has a score of > 1) and health implications, showing a remarkable correlation between chronic diseases and an ACE score as low as 1 (ACEsTooHigh).

For those of you curious enough, ACEs comprise:

  • Abuse
    • Physical
    • Emotional
    • Sexual
  • Neglect
    • Physical
    • Emotional
  • Traumatic Household Experiences
    • Separated/Divorced parents
    • Witnessing violence against mother
    • Family member was a alcoholic/drug addict
    • Family member was a mental health patient
    • Family member was in jail/prison

Oddly enough, ACEs were discovered during an obesity study in which a patient who had been losing weight significantly suddenly regained all her lost weight. When the researchers investigated this, they found that the patient in question had been sexually abused as a child and turned to obesity as a protective mechanism. In the process of losing weight, she was catcalled, which triggered memories of her abuse and she put the weight back on as protection (ACEsTooHigh).

Our children, the generations of tomorrow deserve a life free of the effects of abuse and neglect. Those who are trapped deserve a way out and understanding arms to lean on.

Begin the discussion today and let's all take a stand against Child Abuse in Virginia, in the US, around the world.

Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-552-7096
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-Child (422-4453)

Resources
Court Appointed Special Advocates (Of Central VA)
Prevent Child Abuse (VA)
 - Fact Sheet
US Dept of Health and Human Services
ACEstudy.org
 - ACE Questionnaire
ChildTrends ACE Factsheet