The following post is written by one of our Criminal Justice interns, Kailee, who has been interning with us since May. Kailee attends Oakland University and is interested in pursuing a career in Law.
The Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer offers a variety of prevention programs within the community that educate members on body awareness, signs of child abuse, and what we can do to prevent child abuse.
Why are Communities Important?
Community involvement is important in recognizing and preventing child abuse. At CAC Lapeer, we teach community members the important role they play in recognizing and preventing child abuse. We teach them the responsibilities they have in protecting our children as well as the steps to take when reporting or seeking help from other members in the community to address the issue of child abuse. When teaching our Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training to community members, a common theme we discuss is the role each community member plays in a child's life. For most people, it is easy to name not just one child but multiple children they feel responsible for. When discussing this with community members, it always amazes me to see how without even realizing it, the group has decided that they are responsible for the children within our community. Whether it be through a friend's child, their own children, grandchildren, a student, niece, nephew, neighbor, etc. they have quickly decided that they are responsible for many children -most that live in our community and some that do not- but regardless they are still able to name multiple children that they feel responsible for protecting. One of the ways in which community members can protect these children is through the relationship that they currently have with them.
If you are reading this, I want you to take a moment and think about the role you play in a child's life. Think about how your interaction with this child shapes them. How do you talk to this child? How do they talk with you? What do they share with you? Do they tell you about their day at school? Do they share what their interests are? Take a moment and think about that child and/or children and how important you may be to them. Are you someone they feel they can trust?
It is important for adults to understand the role we play in a child's life because of the positive impact we can have on them. It is important for adults to engage with children, listen to them, ask them questions, build rapport with them, etc. You never know, you may be the only person that child may trust. You may be the only person they feel comfortable sharing "secrets" with. You may be the only person to notice red flags or abnormal behavior. And you may just be the only person who gets them the help they need.
What can Communities do?
Communities can continue to work toward combating child abuse by supporting and encouraging each other in protecting our children. As a community, we can come together and talk about the organizations and resources available and the types of programs they have to offer. The goal is to expand the services available and establish a shared community philosophy, or mutual agreement of efforts. By coming together and supporting one another, we can effectively increase a sense of responsibility among adults.
What can you do?
As mentioned above, although it is important to engage with a child, listen to them, support them and let them know you are a safe person they can talk to if they need to, it is just as important to be aware of red flags and what to do if a child does disclose to you. On our resource page, you will find the pages "Recognizing the Signs" and "What to do if a Child Discloses". We highly encourage you to read through these resources and sign up for our next Darkness to Light training to discuss in detail what you as a community member can do to help prevent child abuse.