Child Abuse Prevention Starts at Home


Can we really prevent something which we do not fully understand? The definition for prevention is an action that stops something from happening: an action or actions taken to stop somebody from doing something or to stop something from happening. From that definition alone I think perhaps we need to either redefine our efforts or we need to look closer at what we are attempting to do. Removing a child from an abusive home or parent is not child abuse prevention. Placing a child into foster care is not child abuse prevention. Sending an at risk family to a counselor who in turn advises the parents to seek medication for the child or worse yet have the child removed, is not child abuse prevention. These actions can in fact be considered child abuse intervention, but prevention they are not.

So what is child abuse prevention?

Einstein stated that if he had to solve a major problem he would spend 95% of his time understanding the problem and 5% coming up with the solution. Essentially our understanding is everything. If most of us were spanked or yelled at as children, or perhaps ignored, and isolated, then from what perspective can we ultimately understand what child abuse prevention must look like? We have all been abused on some level by some adult during our lifetime. Whether it was a parent, grandparent, teacher, peer, or some other individual we may have encountered on our life path, it has occurred not always overtly, but often in very subtle ways. Ways in which we may not even be able to recognize. If we are to prevent child abuse from occurring we must be courageous enough to examine its roots.

Why did my father hit me?

The simple answer is that he merely did what was done to him, or he didn’t know of any other way to parent. Yes, this can be true to a degree. If we consider 360۫ degrees the whole picture, then I’ll grant history and past experiences 180۫ degrees. But what about the rest? Dad worked in a rock quarry for thirty-five years. Everyday he arose at 5:00 am and returned at 4:00 pm. When he came home he was exhausted and irritable. He made $13.50 an hour. There was never more than enough of anything, always just enough, so when more was needed things got tough. His father was a horse trader and an alcoholic, murdered outside of a bar. My father didn’t graduate from high school, was a decorated Vietnam veteran, and returned home with severe post traumatic stress disorder, not to mention agent orange in his system which would eventually lead to leukemia and ultimately his passing. He was a caring man, but he didn’t understand. He only passed on what was done to him. When the counselor came to see my sister they went for ice cream. She was a friend of my parents. She did not understand either.

The single greatest cause to child abuse is stress. When we become stressed we move into survival. When we are in survival we can not be present to the moment. We are either caught up in the fear of what will happen in the future, or we are trying to avoid what may have happened in the past, but ultimately we lose the sanctity of the moment. The moment is all that we have.

If we want to prevent child abuse we must act early before it has already occurred, because then there is no prevention only intervention. We must educate in alternative, present ways of discipline (teaching), support one another to be graceful with ourselves as adults and parents, withholding judgment but being generous with understanding and acceptance. We must work diligently with young and old parents alike to learn how to read their own body cues for stress, and teach them how to breathe in the midst of seemingly overwhelming situations so that they can stay present and not absorbed by fears of the future or the past. And then we must support one another to find our passion, or our calling, to earn a decent living, manage our finances, plan for the future, and always know that tomorrow greater things are possible.

There is a familiar African proverb which says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it also takes a village to prevent a child from being harmed. But there is another African proverb that states, “Look not where you have fallen, but where you have slipped.” It’s time for us to examine where we have slipped so that in moving forward we can prevent more falling.

Say a prayer for the children that have been hurt, so that they may turn their pain into gain for the future of our world.

Choose Love