April is Child Abuse Prevention month. Though journalists aren’t typically the kind to jump on an “awareness” month bandwagon, Child Abuse Prevention is something we feel strongly about here at the Itemizer.
Child abuse is one of those things that sticks around like a bad gene in a DNA sequence. It can get started somewhere along the generational line, and, like a freight train, slam through generation after generation until it feels normal.
People who grow up in abusive homes may turn into abusers themselves — and may not even realize that their behavior is not normal — or they may turn into victims who then seek abusers as partners, because being a victim is what they know. It’s what’s comfortable.
Even when someone has the realization that they are being abusive, or being abused, it is difficult to get out of the situation and throw the breaks on that freight train, but help is out there.
Polk County offers resources for parents, from the Indoor Play Park to Mid-Valley Parenting classes to the twice-a-month respite care offered by Family Building Blocks. If you need help to be a better parent or partner, seek it now.
But what if you’re not a parent, or the child isn’t yours?
Sure, you can volunteer at a variety of agencies or hotlines, but the first — and perhaps simplest — step is to put your cellphone in your pocket or purse and listen to what is going on around you. Befriend your neighbors.
Don’t be quick to judge someone’s actions, but listen to what he or she is going through.
When someone is in an abusive family — children or adults — it can feel isolated and alone. From the outside, the escape route seems clear: Leave your abusive spouse. Take the kids and leave. From the inside, it can feel like being locked up in Alcatraz.
Reach out a hand to a stranger and offer to listen without judgement. Let them know there are resources available through Polk County programs. Be the light in someone’s darkness. When it comes to preventing child abuse, it starts with us adults.