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Our children need us

BY Linda Wilk

Our children are hurting emotionally, physically, sexually and verbally.

Every day in Grant County and across the nation, children are being exposed to acts of violence, which in turn affect how they develop and what they perceive as normal.

In December 2012, a report from the Attorney General’s National Task Force reported that approximately two out of every three of our children have their lives touched by violence, crime, abuse and psychological trauma.

In 1979, U.S. Surgeon General Julius B. Richmond declared violence a public health crisis of the highest priority, and yet 40 years later that crisis remains.

Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually. An estimated 683,000 children (unique incidents) were victims of abuse and neglect in 2015, the most recent year for which there is national data, according to the National Children’s Alliance.

No matter where the child is experiencing this violence, the fact that it is occurring has the potential to profoundly derail the child’s security, health, happiness and ability to grow and learn – with effects lasting well into adulthood.

In addition, according to Futures Without Violence, more than 60 percent of kids in the U.S. have been exposed to crime, abuse and violence – many in their own homes. Repeated exposure to trauma and violence can disrupt brain development and increase the risk of serious illness, psychological issues and dangerous behavior later in life.

Sexual abuse places children at high risk for serious and chronic health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, suicidality, eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance abuse and deviant sexual behavior. Sexually abused children often become hypervigilant about the possibility of future sexual violation and experience feelings of betrayal by the adults who failed to care for and protect them.

Physical abuse puts children at high risk for lifelong problems with medical illness, PTSD, suicidality, eating disorders, substance abuse and deviant sexual behavior. And children who live in homes where domestic violence takes place experience these issues, plus they often times personalize the situations and take responsibility for their parent’s actions, believing they are somehow the cause of the problem.

So, now that you have learned how devastating and destructive we are to our children, what can we do to stop the violence and give these children hope as we work this month of April to empower our children and stop the abuse?

First and foremost we can strive to make our homes a place of safety and security, filled with love and accountability. We need to ensure that our homes are a sanctuary for our children. A place that they can truly be themselves, without fear or judgement. A place that they learn what appropriate boundaries are and learn how to cope in today’s society while still receiving appropriate discipline.

Then, we can look outside ourselves and empower our neighborhoods to be the same safe and secure environment that our homes have become. We can talk to our neighbors and encourage the children to be all they can be.

We can take the time to do the small things in life that make the most difference in the end, like learning our neighbor’s names and helping each other out – role modeling healthy relationships to all children.

And we can reach beyond our neighborhoods to our schools, our churches and our youth-serving organizations. We can each strive to assist either through our time, talents or treasure to build up and support organizations that empower youth and families, such as Family Service Society, Inc.

It has been said over and over again that children are our future. But until we truly put that sentiment into action, the statistics around child abuse and how it relates to sexual violence and domestic violence will not change and the Office of the Attorney General and U.S. Surgeon General will continue to report how trauma is silently killing our future.

To find out more how you can help, contact Hands of Hope, a division of Family Service Society, at 765-664-0701 or go to our agency website at www.famservices.com or find Hands of Hope on Facebook.

Because in the end, if we truly want to make a positive impact on our children that will be life lasting, it is the societal norms, attitudes and beliefs that we each hold that will make the truly life changing impact.