|Back to School: Recommit to Protecting Children
By Paul Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs
The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.
The bittersweet time of year has returned: back-to-school—often bitter for kids and sometimes sweet for parents. During the summer months, there is always so much to do and so little time to do it. There are only so many weekends and, unfortunately, so few vacation days each year. Taking time to relish every moment is paramount. We all know that, but it is always easier to point it out to someone else than to heed our own good counsel. Life is like that.
Sometimes, we have to remind each other how important each of us really is and how much God loves us. That is what parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and coaches do best. They remind others—especially the children in their lives—of their importance. Back-to-school time, like New Year’s, is another time to recommit to being better at what each of us does best and to try harder at what we are not so good at doing.
Our VIRTUS® work is an example of what we all do well together. As we recommit to keeping children safe from abuse, neglect, bullying, and technological predators, it might be wise to review some of the myths and facts about our work. A quick glance at the facts below prompts us to remember our accomplishments protecting the children and vulnerable people in our homes, schools, playgrounds, athletic fields, and institutions.
It is a myth that it's only abuse if it's violent.
The fact is, physical abuse is just one type of child abuse. Neglect, emotional abuse, and bullying in school or via social media can be just as damaging. Because these types of abuse are subtler, other people are less likely to intervene.
It is a myth that only bad people abuse their children.
The fact is while it's easy to say that only “bad people” abuse their children, it's not always so black and white. Not all abusers act in a “bad” manner in their everyday lives. Many people do good things to get closer to children and vulnerable persons.
It is a myth that child abuse doesn't happen in “good” families.
The fact is, child abuse doesn't only happen in poor families or bad neighborhoods. It crosses all racial, economic, and cultural lines. Sometimes, families who appear to have it all from the outside are hiding a different story behind closed doors.
It is a myth that most child abusers are strangers.
The fact is, while abuse by strangers happens, most abusers are family members or people who are close to the family.
It is a myth that abused children always grow up to be abusers.
The fact is, some abused children repeat the cycle of abuse. On the other hand, many adult survivors of child abuse have a strong motivation to protect their children against what they went through and are excellent parents and caregivers (Adapted from Helpguide.org. 18 July 2012).
Our continued work together is crucial to break the cycle of abuse and lessen the scars that child sexual abuse, neglect, and bullying leave on victims. Educating children, believing them, and letting them know that they can discuss anything happening in their lives is something that all caregivers must practice often with the children and vulnerable adults in their lives. Together, we can—and must—change the future to improve victims’ sense of self worth and increase their chances for success in healthy relationships, at home, school, and the workplace.
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