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“It’s Time to Switch Gears”

Written by: Ashlee W. Roberts, 800-CHILDREN Parent Helpline Director / Public Affairs Manager at Prevent Child Abuse Virginia

September 19th, 2013 – If you’ve watched the news lately, it’s likely that you’ve heard about some type of child abuse incident that has occurred. Did the story include information on how the “incident” could have been prevented? I’m willing to bet your answer is “no”.  Unfortunately, there is very little attention given to the question of what it would have taken to have prevented these tragedies from happening in the first place.

For every story of child abuse and exploitation we see in the news, there are thousands of other stories, just as real, just as horrifying, that receive no media coverage at all.  If you think this type of “stuff” is happening somewhere far away, to people you don’t know – think again! The odds are actually quite high that each one of us knows several people who have been affected personally by child abuse. All around us there are people who have suffered from abuse or neglect and live with the lasting impact on their emotional and physical health. And there are children suffering today. Why do we tolerate this? Why do we let it go on? Here’s why… because we don’t put enough emphasis on prevention!

Last week, The Washington Post featured an article discussing the latest research on the untreated effects of child abuse and neglect. The research clearly shows the need to support prevention programs like PCAV’s 800-CHILDREN Parent Helpline, Circle of Parents support groups, Healthy Families Virginia, and the Hugs & Kisses child sexual abuse prevention play. Click here to learn more about the services offered by Prevent Child Abuse Virginia.

Research is great, but when the findings continue to show the same trends over and over again, it’s time to stop trying to prove that the problem exists, and focus on how to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. I think we’ve been successful in raising awareness that child abuse and neglect is a major issue in our society – now it’s time to switch gears and raise awareness that child abuse is preventable. We need the political will to do what works best to raise our children to be healthy, strong, proactive adults who will become productive, caring, and contributing members of society, and live life to the fullest – every child deserves that opportunity!

Child abuse is heart breaking. Most people can’t think about the issue without feeling pain. It’s dramatic. It’s frightening. It brings on feelings of outrage, along with a desire to punish the offender and rescue the child. The moment a child is injured or killed is often when people jump to get involved – at exactly the wrong moment, because it’s too late. Often times when a loved one dies, we feel some type of guilt and question ourselves about what we could have done to prevent him from losing his life. In my opinion, child abuse is no different. When a child experiences abuse or neglect he loses part of his life. A part of him dies. His life is forever changed. We should all experience some form of guilt because the fact is, we could have prevented it! So instead of watching those dramatic stories on the news and responding with thoughts like “people are sick”, “how could someone do that to a child” or “that is so sad” … do something about it!

Remember that “research” I was talking about earlier?  Well, it also shows that every 83 minutes a child is abused or neglected – in Virginia alone!  Since Prevent Child Abuse Virginia is the only statewide organization dedicated solely to the prevention of child abuse and neglect, we have a lot of work to do – but we can’t do it without you!

Please consider supporting Prevent Child Abuse Virginia during The Amazing Raise. Your tax deductible donation will directly support the programs and services that PCAV provides to families and children throughout the Commonwealth (not just those in the Richmond area).  This 36-hour online giving challenge makes it possible for $25 to turn into $1,000 or $50 turn into $20,000! Pretty AMAZING, huh? For example, the organization that receives the most donations of $25 or more from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm, will be awarded the “Procrastinator’s Prize”  – an additional $2,000 given by The Community Foundation .  See the Complete List of Prizes 

Primary prevention of child abuse and neglect isn’t “dramatic”. It isn’t the lead story on the six o’clock news. Yet, prevention strategies have been proven to be successful.  When we work together in small ways to make our community a safe and supportive place for families, we can make a huge difference – Prevent Child Abuse Virginia strives to do just that – every day!

~Ashlee W. Roberts

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*The Amazing Raise is a 36-hour online giving challenge hosted by The Community Foundation, and has raised more than $1.8 million for local charities over the past two years.  It is an AMAZING opportunity for friends, family, neighbors and colleagues to come together and raise as much money as possible for local nonprofits (like PCAV) in just 36 hours and, in turn, celebrate the generous spirit of giving that helps define the state of Virginia. Learn more


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