April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This month we set time aside to focus on the prevention of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and neglect of children within our communities by fostering education and collaborating on programs that facilitate awareness.
The fact is that most abused and neglected children will never come forward, resulting in an estimated 3,000 unreported incidents of child sexual abuse in Chicago alone. These children continue to suffer in silence, often while the abuse continues. There are many reasons children don’t speak up, even when they are the victims of repeated, painful abuse. Many are paralyzed by fear and shame or simply too young to even understand they are victims at all.
Studies show that the problem is also compounded because adults often do not recognize the warning signs or have trouble defining what constitutes abuse or neglect, which creates a reluctance to become involved. It is important to educate yourself and those around you to understand what constitutes abuse and neglect, as well as how and where to report suspected incidents.
As evidenced by many recent high-profile cases that have come to light, prevention is the key to reducing child abuse and neglect and improving the lives of children and families. Strengthening families and preventing child abuse requires a shared commitment of both individuals and organizations in every community. Research has found that successful child abuse interventions must both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure the well-being of children and families. It is important for communities to join together to provide an education and support system that encourages everyone to report possible incidents of abuse and neglect.
Learn more about child abuse and neglect, risk and protective factors, identification, long-term consequences, and how to report suspected child abuse and neglect. For more information on warning signs, engaging your community and available resources, check out the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Resource Guide, “Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2012 Resource Guide.”
This April, the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (CCAC) challenges you to be a voice. CCAC has launched a new campaign called, “Voices For 3,000,” to put the responsibility on adults to speak up and become voices for these unheard children. To learn more about what you can do to help break the cycle, go to www.VoicesFor3000.org.