Thursday, January 23, 2014

Christians, We Need To Help Prevent & End Abuse, Especially Child Abuse

Child abuse. That awful word. That awful reality.

Brothers and sisters in Jesus, there is a scourge on our society. It also affects us in the Church. It is not just "out there." Because of disturbing statistics, we Christians are not immune to the reality of abuse in our communities, including child abuse. We can't afford to leave victim advocacy to the world and to act like abuse and domestic violence do not affect us. It is a sad fact of life in a fallen world, of which we are a part. Years ago, it broke my heart to read of a much trusted, exemplary Christian leader of a Christ-centered nonprofit be accused of child molestation and respond by killing himself, ostensibly to flee justice.

There have been far too many heart-wrenching cases of missing children in which child abuse has been suspected or confirmed to help explain their disappearances. High-profile cases include baby Gabriel Johnson, Haleigh Cummings, Hassani Campbell  and Kyron Hormon, just to name a few. And each of them is still missing! No doubt, there are countless other such children, whether they are still missing, have been found alive or sadly, dead. Currently, there are two missing babies, Baby Elaina and Levon Wameling, who both have been found dead, probably because of abuse-related murder. Abuse or neglect have been suspected in their cases from the start, and they are just two examples! There are many child abuse deaths of unfortunate children who are simply killed without going through being missing. A few of them have been well-known. But for every case of these, there are far more very similar cases. It is estimated that three children, each day, die as a result of child abuse. This child abuse, along with abuse of people of all ages, is getting no better but seems to be getting worse. This is despite many movements to stop child abuse and massive yearly awareness events. Somehow, despite all that is being done to raise awareness, there seems to not be enough being done at the practical, grassroots level where the difference is to be made. Therefore, this post that I have done in the past, seems to be as relevant and needed as ever. These are practical suggestions for how to help end child abuse.

1). Screen anyone whom you allow to babysit your children, especially if you need them to do this on a regular basis or they will be doing this from your home. Sadly, people are so often not what they seem to be or claim to be. Interview your candidates. If you can afford it, run background checks on these candidates. Ask them for references and call each one, paying attention to what they say and how they say it.

2). Little things can mean a lot. If you are standing in line in anywhere and you see a mom or dad with young children behind you, allow them to go ahead of you. If you see a family with young children driving behind you, grant them the right-of-way.

3) Try to always put your child's name on the inside, not outside, of all clothing and possessions, to protect their privacy and to guard them from nosy predators. It's sad that this must be done but since those nosy predators can be hard to identify, we can never be too careful.

4). If you have very young children or children with special needs who may wander, install locks on screen doors, front and back. Yes, this may sound confining but isn't it better to be safe than sorry?

5). If you have children who use the Internet, especially if they use social networking sites (SNS), monitor what they do online. Yes, they probably will resent it but, in time, they will come to appreciate it. Do not let underage children (under age 13) set up SNS accounts on Facebook, You Tube, My Space or other SNS. If you can, encourage them to hold off using SNS until they reach age 18! And if they use SNS, set up their computers in an area where they can be easily supervised. There is too much drama and too many harmful people in cyberspace.

6). You are justly proud of your child's accomplishments and you want to "show off" your child. But bear in mind that you never know where the eyes of predators are lurking, looking for easy prey to exploit and victimize. So refrain from putting up bumper stickers that proclaim, "My Child Is An Honor Student" or "The Proud Parent of An Eagle Scout" or anything else that can identify your child to predators.

7). Befriend a single mother, especially if she is poor or without a strong support system. Single mothers, with all their stresses, are at-risk and becoming overwhelmed and so are most easily tempted to take out their frustrations out on their children or neglect them; this includes relying on them for companionship or expecting too much from them.

8). It's normal for your beautiful children to be the apples of your eye. But if you use social networks, never forget that predators lurk unseen in cyberspace. Therefore, minimize uploading photos and videos of your children on the Internet, including SNS. And I strongly discourage using their names if you enjoy putting up family photos and never their full birthdates. Among all the good folks on SNS, online predators lurk and we have few ways to identify them.

9). We need to overcome our inhibitions and talk to our children about sexuality and sexual abuse. They need to know how to protect themselves from being victimized as we cannot always be around to protect them. We need to let them know that they are to ignore any orders to "keep secrets." Silence empowers predators which is the LAST thing anyone wants.

10). Do not discipline a child in anger. Cool down before taking action. So much abuse, including that which results in death to children, comes from tempers out of control.

11). If it is for you, volunteer to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to serve as a voice in the system for abused and neglected children. If interested, visit the national CASA website at: Court Appointed Special Advocates for Abused & Neglected Children (CASA).

12).If you are expecting or pursuing adoption, ensure that you have a solid support system in place. My heart goes out to those of you who have no extended family nearby; in that case try to find giving, helpful people who will support you. This holds true especially if you are a single parent, have a disability or other life challenges. The support will reduce the stress of parenting and lesson the temptation to abuse or neglect your children (ren).

13). Appeal to legislators to release more funds to anger management classes and parenting classes in public schools at the high school level, in place of all the higher match that is required of students. After all, what skills will students need to succeed at parenting and relationships, algebraic skills or people skills?

14). Try to never allow any child 17 or under, walk alone anywhere for any reason, even when it may be more convenient. We have far too often heard of the terrible things that happen to children who are left unattended!

15). If you are new and especially a young parent who is petrified of your new parenting responsibility, you do have options other than doing something desperate that you'll never forgive yourself for. You can leave your family with a responsible adult or take your baby to a church, a hospital or to any local police station. They may track you and hold you accountable, but there are many childless couples who will be overjoyed to take your baby!

16). Child identity theft is on the rise; a child so victimized won't realize what's been done to him or her until it's time to apply for a job, an apartment, a loan, or for a host of other goods and services that most take for granted. Don't give out your child's Social Security Number or full birthdate to anyone unless they NEED to know to help your child. And if you are tempted to use your child's Social Security Number for any reason, don't! This is child abuse.

17). If it is for you, run for political office, making children's rights your political platform.

18). Children with autism or other behavioral issues are the most abused children of all, according to research and my experience. This is because frustrated and overwhelmed (and maybe uninformed) parents and other caregivers lash out in frustration by verbal, emotional and even physical or sexual abuse. Children with special needs are even more vulnerable than typical children. If you are the parent or caregiver of a child with special needs, seek resources in your area where you can get referrals to those who can grant you respite care and guidance.

19). If you have emotional baggage from a troubled past, whether you are a parent or not, try to find a trusted person (s) to work though your issues with, whether a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, pastor or other person. In this way, you will be breaking a cycle that can pass from one generation to another. We do not have to remain products of our upbringings. In this way, by empowering yourself, you will be free to meet your child (ren's) needs.

20). If you grown overwhelmed as a parent, get help. So many cases of abuse, especially child abuse, deaths have happened because frustrated parents or caregivers have resorted to abuse spinning out of control and killing children. Hard as it is, tell yourself to walk away, take deep breaths or pray. And DO call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-44530 or 9-1-1, and find alternatives to abuse.

21). If you struggle with a substance abuse addiction, especially drugs or alcohol, please get professional help! Substance abuse sets you up to neglect or abuse your children. Of course, you still love them as much as ever, but your body "needs" to "feed" your addiction even more. You will stoop to anything to sustain your addiction and are powerless to conquer it on your own. To save your family, get help!

22). Men, take responsibility for the children whom you father, even if you are not married to their mother! It is so unfair to get females pregnant and then desert them, leaving them alone to raise your children. Such moms are at-risk because of their stresses, of abusing and neglecting your children. Anf if you are married, don't leave all parenting to your wife. Parenting is a team effort.

23). If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, do not be silent. Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or 9-1-1.

24). Parents, raise your children to manage their anger, teach and model empathy and resolve their conflicts with words, not fists. Set the example, hard as this may be to do at times.

25). So many cases of child abuse and child abuse deaths happen because of wrongful court decisions in child custody cases and because of a broken system. There is no easy answer to this but appeals to the government may be the first step, so that the system will attract competent, dedicated people who are adequately paid for their work and where corrupt judges will be removed from office. This will enable the appointments of competent judges of compassion and integrity.

26).Spousal or partner abuse often mushrooms into child abuse. When we talk about preventing or ending child abuse we need to address other forms of abuse. In situations where spouses are being abused, will child removal fix the problem? According to many courts, it is! But how about looking for ways to help abused spouses leave with their children, rather than remove the children and further victimize both the children and the non-abusive partners. There are safe-houses, of course, but they are often underfunded, space is limited and there are time limits to staying before the abused parents is again on her own with the children. Instead of asking, "Why doesn't she just leave him?" as seems to be the instinctive things to ask in such situations, the focus should be on trying to keep the non-abusing parent and the child (ren) together and avoid further abuse from the system which is known as parental alienation and itself child abuse.

27). Human trafficking isn't something that is "out there." Like it or not, it is happening, from coast to coast, even in the US and to children in stable, loving homes as it happens to those from bad homes. What happens is that children, around the age of 12, may run away from home or get caught up in other situations where someone approaches them and tell them that they will find a "better life" if they go to "work" for a "new family." Lured and then sold, they find themselves trapped and are made to do unimaginable things; there are many who never survive or escape. You can educate yourself at the website for Not for Sale, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking. Visit:
Not For Sale.
And if you even suspect that you see a person who may be a human trafficking victim, you can contact Truckers Against Trafficking at: 1-888-373-7888.

28). If you are in the position to do so, adopt a child. You may be rescuing a child (ren) from an abusive home, even saving their live (s).

29). Strongly discourage your older child (ren) to not date or get romantically involved with anyone with known violent tendencies; do as much "due diligence" as you can on them. You will be sorry to pour so much into raising a child (ren), only to see them ruin themselves in bad marriages!

30). Bullying should always be discussed when we talk about preventing and ending child abuse. Just because the abuse is done peer-to-peer does not make this form of abuse any less and the scars of those who survive this abuse are much the same as the scars of those who survive any other form of abuse. No matter what form abuse takes or who it is done by, abuse hurts. Parents, teach and model empathy, kindness and compassion. The rest of us should practice these qualities and not tolerate any peer abuse that we witness, whether in person or online.

31). If you are single and in a relationship, do not be afraid to research this person and if you can afford it, do a background check on them. That way, if you find any kind of abuse or violence in their background, you know to not pursue a relationship with the person. So many cases of abuse, including child abuse, could have been prevented if this had been done by adults who did not make the effort to research the backgrounds of their partners or spouses. Learn from the mistakes of so many whose stories have been made painfully public and do your homework when you consider entering a relationship.

32). We Christians need to work together to educate ourselves about abuse and domestic violence. We need to work to make our churches safe places for victims of all ages to share their secrets, and for people who struggle with temptations to abuse to get the help they need BEFORE abuse happens. We need to face the stark fact that all of us are fallen and sinful and that we have no reason to look down on abusers. Given the right setting, each of us are capable of poor choices that could ruin our lives and that of those around us.

This is no complete list but you get the concept. Abuse can be prevented. It is up to us to prevent it. We don't have to organize, spend money, raise money, form committees and create huge events to make a difference. We can make a difference right where we are. These things that I have mentioned are simple (not easy) everyday things that all of us can do that make the world a better place. There is an established anti-child abuse nonprofit that is an outlet for ways to make a difference.

This nonprofit is called Childhelp. Their website is comprehensive and offers many ways to get involved. They offer the 24/7 hotline that I have mentioned twice in this post, material where you can educate yourself about child abuse, volunteer opportunities, a public school initiative to prevent child sexual abuse and even a forum for survivor stories. And if you feel so inclined, you can donate. You can visit Childhelp's website: ChildHelp.

The epidemic of child abuse is so horrific that our awareness efforts can never be enough to address it. This is 365 days a year, 24/7.

Child abuse is the business of each us of. We need to mind our own business.

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