In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, ROCK Juneau has reached out to people in the community that are actively advocating for those who are at risk or have experienced abuse. Cady Kuzmich, an AmeriCorps volunteer and Children's Advocate at AWARE, discusses the statistics and what you can do to help.
"In an effort to shield children from some of the ugliest parts of the world, we risk sheltering them from conversations that can arm them with knowledge they need to protect themselves. Parents may be unsure how to broach conversations about abuse with their children -- how young is too young after all? Considering over a third of child abuse victims are 11 years old or younger, according to Juneau’s S.A.F.E. Child Advocacy Center, we need to be having tough conversations with our kids sooner rather than later.
Of course, a conversation with a five-year-old will look different than a conversation with a 12-year-old. By using vocabulary and examples of situations that apply to them, you can help a child embrace their ability to hold firm boundaries and learn the difference between safe and unsafe touch. Practice giving children more opportunities to say “no” when something makes them uncomfortable.
The Child Advocacy Center works to prevent abuse and serve children who have been subjected to abuse on their road to healing. Along with providing trauma-informed services, the CAC connects families with professionals that can aid their child’s recovery after a traumatic event. Services provided by the CAC include videotaped forensic interviews, case management, counseling, crisis intervention, community education and forensic medical examinations. Staff work with families to ensure the process is minimally traumatic.
According to the CAC, one in 10 children are sexually abused and eight out of every 10 incidents of abuse take place in isolated environments. Limiting a child’s outings with others to public places rather than isolated locations is one tip the CAC recommends to decrease the risk of abuse.
Though “stranger danger” has been pounded into the national psyche for decades, we now know 9 out of 10 times children are abused by someone the family knows, according to the National Children’s Alliance. Nearly four out of 10 times, the abuser is another child.
Understanding the myriad reasons children are afraid to speak up is vital to recognizing the insidious nature of abuse. Abuse comes in different forms -- physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Abusers manipulate, shame and threaten their victims in order to keep them silent. When the abuser is so often related to the child in some way, the child may fear speaking up will cause a rift in the family or disappoint their parents.
Warning signs of potential abuse include low self-esteem, extreme passivity or aggression, discomfort with touch, learning and speech disorders, trouble sleeping and interest or knowledge of sex inappropriate for their age.
Though it may be instinctual to investigate potential abuse yourself, the CAC advises against conducting your own interviews. Instead, they encourage anyone who suspects abuse to make a report to the Office of Children’s Services at 907-465-1650 or the Juneau Police Department. Reports can be made anonymously if the caller prefers to remain unnamed.
The AWARE Shelter and the CAC both offer prevention and intervention resources and information for families concerned with a child’s well-being."
Representative Geren Tarr will be hosting a Go Blue Rally taking place Friday, April 6th from 12-12:30pm on the Capitol steps. Wear blue and attend to show your support!