In Britain, where officials are dealing with 450 people who have come forward to say that Jimmy Savile abused them when they were children, there’s more awareness, and thus finally more reporting of child abuse. Nevertheless, society still flinches from dealing with it, as The Guardian pointed out in an editorial, “Child abuse: Speaking the unspeakable“. It noted that the world is still doing what Freud had done a hundred years ago: recoiling from the common and damaging child maltreatment that occurs to millions of children daily, and falling into a type of societal dissociation by pretending the problem simply doesn’t exist.
The editorial explained that one of the hurdles that officialdom had to move past in prosecuting child abuse cases was the belief the “child witnesses could not be trusted”. Britain appears to have moved past that, but there’s one more systematic flaw:
Namely, an unwillingness to take seriously the complaints of youngsters who exhibit exactly the sort of symptoms of mental ill health – drinking, self-harm, extreme reticence – that can be caused by this abuse.
Around the U.S., other efforts are underway to make reporting child abuse easier.
In 2011 in Oregon, 75,000 cases of child abuse or neglect were recorded; 710 of those were in Lane County. The county has set a goal of reducing child abuse and neglect 90 percent by 2030. The 90by30 Project’s first annual conference begins tomorrow. The project was launched by the University of Oregon College of Education. According to this story on KVAL.com:
“It’s more the idea of taking the responsibility for that intervention away from that handful of people in government or non-profits and putting it where it belongs with each of us,” said 90by30 program director Phyllis Barkhurst.
Barkhurst said Lane County will be divided into six zones, with local councils getting information to people on the warning signs of abuse.
“Where you know your neighbor and know that you can trust your neighbor and you can reach out to your neighbor for support; even in those neighborhoods, rates of abuse and neglect are much lower,” said Dr. Jeff Todahl, program co-director.
The Missouri legislature is considering a bill that would allow any school staff to report an incidence of child abuse directly to the state’s Children’s Division, according to this report from KOMU.com.
Bill sponsor Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis, told the House Judiciary Committee her daughter once saw a child being beaten while she was a teacher at a St. Louis charter school. Her daughter informed her superiors, who did not forward the report to the Children’s Division, at which point she made the report directly. Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, told KOMU 8 News incidents like the one Haefner described are not uncommon. He said letting teachers report such incidents directly is a good idea.
In Omaha, NE, actress Ashley Judd gave a keynote speech at a conference hosted by Project Harmony. The conference focused on helping people recognize signs of child abuse, including showing a diorama of a home characteristic of neglect, and how child abuse and arson are connected. According to a KETV.com report:
“Where the child is witnessed, and where the child is listened to, is so profound, and that there is no minimizing or reinterpretation, which is crucial to the child’s healing,” Judd said.
Judd told the audience she survived repeated abuse as a girl, and when she tried to tell adults, they made it harder by brushing it off.