Reflections on an Important and Emotional Month

Ned Breslin

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

The national scourge of child abuse is amplified during April with the hope that increased knowledge of the extent, causes and consequences of abuse spur renewed commitments from government, civil society organizations and loving adults and children to push back against those who harm children.

The numbers are staggering. Over 680,000 children suffer from the consequences of abuse in the US, with over 1,600 dying per year from their abuse.

While the costs of trauma to the children and families affected by abuse is incalculable, we are starting to understand the significant short- and long-term costs to society when those who were abused do not get the help they need. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) suggests that the lifetime financial cost to society of child abuse and neglect is a staggering $124 billion, and the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center recently found that “each incidence of child abuse costs the public $400,533 over the course of a victim’s lifetime.” To put that in context, Colorado’s Tennyson Center for Children helps children heal who have experienced upwards of 10 incidents of child abuse alone.

Agencies like Tennyson and their government school and human services partners are relentlessly focused on helping abused kids heal as children and eventually flourish as adults. But we all worry that we are scratching the surface of the problem, and that gives me at least pause over the month of April.

I imagine there are too many kids in trouble still hiding under beds, trying to disappear into their covers or closets, not sleeping for fear that someone will walk in on them at night as happened before, and whose terror level rises as their parents enter darker alcohol and drug induced mindsets that truly put kids’ lives and wellbeing at risk. I shudder knowing that there are far too many children who feel alone, ashamed, abandoned and unsure of what is happening to them, with some being so young that they do not even have the words to express the horror.

Sustained awareness, prevention and actual programming that identifies children in crisis and supports them to heal and eventually thrive is essential but not enough. We must also hold closely the perspective that there are more kids out there in trouble, and society as a whole has a crucial role to play in helping identify kids in crisis and creating new avenues for their identification and healing so that we as a country can say that no kid is ever left alone, terrified and abandoned again.

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