April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Children all over the word are suffering from the effects of child abuse and neglect.
In the United States, over 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies every year. A referral can include multiple children, and the number of children is estimated to be over 6.6 million.
Our country has one of the worst records among industrialized nations, with an estimated four to six deaths resulting from child abuse every day (Childhelp). Numerous studies suggest the effects of child abuse encompass mental health disorders, addictions, sexual and reproductive health issues and more. Studies also show children who are abused show a higher risk for partner violence, substance abuse, depression/ suicide, sexually transmitted diseases and severe psychological disorders.
To understand the importance of prevention is to understand the generational cycle of abuse. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, child abuse is known to repeat itself from generation to generation. In one study results showed that individuals with histories of child abuse and/or neglect were significantly more likely to be poly-violence perpetrators, perpetrating violence in physical and sexual abuse and neglect.
The process of reducing and preventing child abuse in families and communities must begin with education. Prevent Child Abuse Pee Dee is a program dedicated to reducing and preventing child abuse and neglect within the Pee Dee Region. It comprises of Talking About Touching presentations for children, and Stewards of Children trainings for parents.
Pee Dee Coalition’s Talking About Touching program includes age-appropriate presentations that identify safe and unsafe touches and define physical and sexual abuse. Children are given skills on how to disclose abuse to adults and how to stand up for themselves. Lessons include a variety of teaching methods and tools and incorporate multiple styles of learning. Teachers and parents both receive materials that allow them to reinforce the skills taught in the original presentation.
Research done by the University of Manitoba in Canada suggests that preschool and elementary-age children can and do learn personal body safety concepts and skills. Furthermore, it suggests that children who participate in programs of this type show significant improvement in prevention-related knowledge and skills, showing the greatest gain in preschool and early elementary-aged children.
Stewards of Children is a two-hour classroom presentation for adults where participants gain a better understanding of how to protect their children from sexual abuse. This program provides parents with information on prevention and ways to identify warning signs. It is through programs like these parents and adults are able to be proactive and prepared to face challenges of child sexual abuse.
Prevention is important because maltreatment can be avoided. Providing children with nourishing, accepting, and loving environments is the best way to give children the opportunity to grow into the best versions of themselves.
“When children see the adults in their lives take action to keep them safe, healthy, and loved, they grow into happy, healthy adults,” says Tawanda Rouse, Lead Family Advocate for Durant Children’s Center.
Pee Dee Coalition’s Elizabeth Pettigrew Durant Children’s Center is located in Florence County, Darlington County and most recently in Sumter County. Pee Dee Coalition opened the first Durant Center in 1994, and since has served thousands of children in the region. The center offers children of abuse and/or assault an easier path to healing. Services include forensic interviews, medical examinations for suspected abuse, court services, clinical evaluations and therapy, family advocacy, parent support groups and multidisciplinary case reviews. The mission of Durant is to make a difficult time easier for children by avoiding excessive interviewing and examinations and by providing aid during multiple phases of healing.
For more information on Pee Dee Coalition and the Durant Children’s Center, please go to www.durantschildrencenter.wordpress.com or follow them on Facebook at www.facbook.com/DurantChildren. As COVID-19 prevention measures progress, Pee Dee Coalition will continue to provide services virtually, and ensures the 24-hour crisis line will remain open. To reach the crisis line call 843-669-4600 or 1-800-273-1820. Please call your local crisis center or Durant Center for any questions about services or resources.
Pee Dee Coalition is a member of the United Way.