Family & Children’s Place is asking everyone in the community to do one tangible thing this month to help save children’s lives.
“This is an urgent problem that needs the time and attention of not just us, but the entire community,” said Dan Fox, president of Family & Children’s Place, at a press conference at Louisville Slugger Field on Thursday announcing the month-long campaign to encourage action by people. “We believe that each of us has a role to play to do something concrete to prevent abuse.”
With April being National Child Abuse Awareness month, the group is asking everyone to vow to make a difference by filling out a card available online and in various local locations, saying what that person will do to prevent abuse. The group also is promoting that members will come to anyone for free to give training on how to detect and report abuse.
“The first step is education, and once they have that proper education, they can answer that call to action,” said Jaime Thompson, prevention coordinator for the group.
Thompson said it’s a myth that there are visible signs of sexual abuse, adding that many signs — such as the child isolating themselves, becoming more aggressive or having a change in behavior — can go undetected. She said people need to act and report if they suspect anything and let the authorities figure out if there is something going amiss.
“You need to act on your suspicion ... You may be the only voice that spoke out for that child,” she said.
New Albany is home to a Child Advocacy Center, where children can go in a “kid-friendly” environment and tell their story about their abuse once, Thompson said. She said that’s a way to keep children from having to retell their story multiple times to various law-enforcement officials, which can be traumatizing.
She said prevention is key, saying that children need to be told they have the right to turn down an “uncomfortable touch.”
“Talking about sex in a healthy way can let children know what is and isn’t appropriate,” she said.
Area leaders are already taking action, filling out the cards and vowing to do what they can.
Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, his wife, Madeline, and Jefferson County, Ky., attorney Mike O’Connell made their pledges during the press conference.
SO YOU KNOW
• Nationwide, one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18.
• Experts report that every $1 spent on prevention and early intervention saves $4 in long-term costs.
• Family & Children’s Place typically serves 6,500 children and family members from Indiana and Kentucky.
• For free training on how to detect and report child abuse, call 502-893-3900 and ask for Jaime Thompson.
• Family & Children’s Place will host a live online Facebook discussion about recognizing, preventing and reacting appropriately to child abuse and neglect from noon to 7 p.m. April 13. Go to www.facebook.com/familyandchildrensplace to participate.
TIPS FOR CHILD ABUSE AWARENESS MONTH
1. Know the signs of abuse: Changes in behavior, isolation, aggression and more.
2. Start or join a baby-sitting co-op. It’s healthy to take occasional breaks from your children; it refreshes you and helps you better handle difficult times.
3. Create an “Internet safety” contract with your child. Set rules for when the Internet may be used, the appropriate areas to go online and the length of time children and teenagers are allowed to stay online.
4. Take a time out. When you are frustrated or angry with your children, close your eyes and imagine you are hearing what your child is about to hear. Other things to try: Call a friend, splash cold water on your face, take 10 deep breaths or turn on some music.
5. Get together with other parents to share stories and discuss challenges — provide a safe environment that encourages an open, supportive discussion.
6. If you’re not a parent, a simple way you can help others is to volunteer to be an emergency contact or resource for families in your neighborhood.
7. Never shake a baby. Many adults feel frustrated when they hear their baby cry. It’s OK to put your baby in a safe place and take a few minutes for yourself. Shaking a child may result in severe injury or death.
8. Report suspected abuse or neglect. If you suspect a child may be abused or in danger, notify the police or Child Protective Services immediately. Indiana’s child abuse hotline is 800-800-5556. Callers have the right to request anonymity.
9. All children misbehave at times. Never discipline your child when you are upset — give yourself time to calm down. Remember that discipline is a way to teach your child.
10. Teach children that they have rights. Teach them that it is against the rules for adults to harm them or act in a sexual way with them. When children are quipped with this knowledge, they are more likely to tell someone they trust if abuse happens.
— Read more at www.familyandchildrensplace.org