This archived article was written by: Kris Kohler
April is National Child and Sexual Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about abuse and neglect and encourage individuals and communities to support children and families. This allows gives the public an opportunity to learn more about the history of the month, see examples of Presidential and State proclamations, and find strategies for engaging communities and supporting families.
The term child abuse generally brings to mind extreme physical harm. According to a survey conducted by the National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention, the general public struggles with where to draw the line between discipline and abuse. Spanking and many other physical punishments are not necessarily abusive, depending on the age of the child and the severity of the act. Spanking is not the publics’ preferred disciplinary option and few say they spank their children often. Most do not believe that spanking helps children develop self-control and many understand that violence leads to violence.
According to a study done by Public Research LLC. Americans believe that two parent families are best for children, but just having two parents is not enough. The public gives the same dismal ratings to dual income families that it does to single parents. Americans want one parent to stay at home or work part-time, but not because they are against women in the workplace. In fact, they support working women and think women’s rights have not gone far enough. Instead, the majority of the public are concerned about the high proportion of dual income families because it believes children are better off when one parent stays home, and it suspects that greed has outpaced sacrifice when it comes to family priorities.
One of the biggest issues with abused college-age students is PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], commonly associated with child and sexual abuse. PTSD symptoms are possible to start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not occur until months or even years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work, school or home life then, according to the National Center for PTSD, professional help is needed to treat the disorder. “I was raped when I was 15 years old. For a long time, I spoke about the rape on an intellectual level, as though it was something that happened to someone else. I was very aware that it had happened to me, but there was just no feeling. I kind of skidded along for a while,” said an anonymous source through HAVOCA, [Help for Adult Victims of Child abuse]. “I started having flashbacks. They kind of came over me like a splash of water. I would be terrified. Suddenly I was reliving the rape. I felt like my entire head was moving a bit, shaking, but that wasn’t so at all. I would get very flushed or a very dry mouth and my breathing changed. I was held in suspension. I wasn’t aware of the cushion on the chair that I was sitting in or that my arm was touching a piece of furniture. I was in a bubble, just kind of floating. Having a flashback can wring you out. You’re really shaken. The rape happened the week before Christmas, and I feel like a werewolf around the anniversary date. I can’t believe the transformation into anxiety and fear.”
It is estimated that there are 60 million survivors of childhood abuse in America today. The fact is that merely surviving the trauma isn’t always enough. The majority of victims suffer long after the actual abuse is over and without proper education and treatment it is a possibility that they may never overcome the past.