OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Raising Awareness for Survivors of Child Abuse and Neglect
Anne Ream  -  2010/4/7
As a college student I'd like to know how I can raise awareness for survivors of child abuse on my campus.
1.  aream
 One of the things that I am often struck by is how many groups are out there doing terrific work on these issues and how difficult it can be to find those groups or access their support networks. Heres an idea for you: Take the list of resources youll find on the website I just flagged, and work with a campus design or communications class to create a poster campaign highlighting those resources. Better yet, save a tree and use some of the available social networking tools (Facebook, Twitter, a personal blog, etc.) to spread the word. We live in exciting times from a media standpoint, and there are infinite ways to raise awareness of the resources available to victims.
2.  sd
 College Campus Counselors may help start a program.
What type of supportive services are available to survivors of child abuse/neglect?
1.  aream
 There is a broad range of resources available to survivors of child abuse and neglect. For adult survivors struggling to rebuild their lives, ascasupport.org is a terrific place to turn. Run by Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA), the site is information and resource rich. More importantly, ASCA is committed to helping survivors regardless of their financial situation, so programs that are no or low cost are available through their network. A terrific all-around place to turn for information and resources targeted to the safety, well-being and security of children and families is the Child Welfare Information Gateway (childwelfare.gov). Start there and you will be linked to a world of resources. Finally, in the digital age in which we find ourselves, there are many resources available through searching the web. Though we always encourage folks to search critically - anyone can build a website, and frankly some are not very good - I have found that there are some wonderful sites, blogs and webzines, often written by and for survivors. These sites can provide inspiration and information for those in need of help and support.
2.  aream
 A terrific and very comprehensive list of resources can be found at : www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?subjID=41&rate_chno=11-11136
What is the difference between child abuse and child neglect?
1.  A Ream
 Child neglect is the failure of a caretaker to provide emotional andor physical care for a child. Child abuse is the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of a child. Needless to say, both are devastating.
How can I learn more about child abuse/neglect in my local area? How can I help rasie awareness in my community?
1.  MarLa
 I feel that to help awareness in an area I think that individuals should focus on schools. I feel that individuals should encourage educators and administrators to be aware and better informed on how to detect signs of neglect or abuse and how to properly treat and handle such circumstances.
2.  K. Roberts
 I've found www.childwelfare.gov to be incredibly helpful in terms of offering good information and innovative ideas. State chapters of Prevent Child Abuse America are also a good place to start for user-friendly advice and statisitcs. Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, many of these sites have highlighted ways to get involved. http://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/preventionmonth/ has some resource packets, sample press releases and proclamations, and lots of info to give you some ideas on how to raise awareness. Things that are relatively easy to pull-off that our chod advocacy center is doing this month are; a Blue Ribbon campaign, informational bulletin boards in public places, dissemination of bookmarks with child abuse prevention tips to local libraries, Pinwheels for Prevention projects in some of the elementary school grades, a screening of the movie Precious followed by an open discussion of abuse depicted in the film and how that relates to our county, and of course the obvious Letter to the Editor in the local paper highlighting April as Child Abuse Prevention month and offering ways in which community members themselves can prevent abuse. The list goes on; just get some facts and get creative. Good luck!
3.  A Ream
 One of the websites I use often is the Family Violence Prevention Fund website (endabuse.org). FVPF does a good job of looking at the connections between different forms of violence and abuse, and its resource library is very deep. I would also encourage you to visit voicesandfaces.org, This non-profit documentary project includes the stories of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Each time I encounter their testimony I am moved by the courage of these survivors and their willingness to speak truth to power and perpetrator. One of the best ways that you can raise awareness in your community is to use your own voice. Get the facts about abuse and neglect and start sharing them. Speak up when someone blames the victim. Write your elected official(s) in support of public policies that make children safer.
Do you find today, as opposed to thirty or forty years ago in this country, that society's attitudes about childhood abuse remain the same despite tougher prosecutions and more awareness? (The dirt belongs hidden under the rug and not out in the open mentality)
1.  A Ream
 I think that in some ways we are culturally conflicted on this issue. On one hand, we abhor, as we should, the sexual abuse of children. Yet even as we respond with moral outrage about actual abuse in "other" communities, we have a hard time talking about the fact that it might be occurring in our own. We also live in a culture where children, particularly girls, are sexualized and "adultified" at increasingly young ages. These marketing and media representations of girls have become so normative that at times it seems that we do not even see them at all, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that we have ceased to identify them as problematic. I am a huge believer in free speech and I am not arguing for censoring the media. But I think we need to have an honest public discussion about the effects of such images on how we see women and girls and how women and girls see themselves.
We are discovering that many young women who enter the juvenile delinquency system are victims of abuse, neglect, or trauma. The disclosure, as well as, follow up treatment, of abuse, neglect or trauma is haphazard. The young women rarely disclose these things. How do we provide an avenue or a process, or an environment for young women to unburden themselves of the trauma they have suffered? And, what must be in place for these young women once they disclose abuse or neglect?
1.  Elizabeth Lyons
 My agency works with children who've experienced or been exposed to trauma, and their families. We find that parents often have themselves been victims of abuse, and the work we do to help them help their children, brings up their unresolved grief and hurt. Our role is to recommend they go through their own therapy, but I'm always struck by the fact that adults have gone years without disclosing to anyone, and they might have continued on, if not for the motivation to help their children.
2.  A Ream
 Jody Raphael, a researcher at the DePaul University School of Law, has written a terrific book that addresses this. In Freeing Tammy: Women, Drugs and Incarceration, Raphael explores the connection between childhood sexual assault and incarceration, arguing convincingly that the vast majority of incarcerated women were victims of childhood rape or abuse. Often, as was the case with Tammy ( the subject of Raphaels book), it can take years for a survivor to acknowledge a sexual abuse history to herself, or to those around her. Yet such acknowledgement can be the beginning of the process of healing. One of the best ways that we can create a climate in which women feel safe to share their abuse histories is by talking about the fact that such a history may exist. Social workers and mental health care providers need to understand that there is a very good chance an incarcerated woman has lived through sexual violence. Armed with that knowledge, they need to get comfortable talking about the role that rape or abuse may have played in the lives of the young women they are working with. If we ask the right questions, and create a climate where the possibility of an abuse history is acknowledged, we go a long way towards creating a space where survivors can disclose. Once a survivor has disclosed, the single most important thing we can do is make sure that counseling is available to her regularly, and over time. I am also a big believer in the power of listening. A survivor who has remained silent for a long period of time very likely has a lot to say. We need to be able to hear her really hear her and acknowledge that she has endured something no one should have to endure.
How can we increase the awareness of child abuse and neglect in our Faith-Based Communities and help them work more collaboratively with community agencies like law enforcement, to reduce the statistics? How can we get all teachers do mandatory cild abuse seminars so the statistics of teacher child abuse-including sexual abuse is reduced?
1.  Joseph
 I am a pastor and a psychologist, and I work with many individuals exposed to trauma and abuse-- I work in a juvenile correctional facility. I am working on helping my area churches lean more regarding child abuse and trauma. I would be very interested in networking with others who work in this field to exchange ideas regarding helping the faith community address the topic of childhood abuse.Thank you,Joseph Grochowski
2.  Joseph
 I am a pastor and a psychologist, and I work with many individuals exposed to trauma and abuse-- I work in a juvenile correctional facility. I am working on helping my area churches lean more regarding child abuse and trauma. I would be very interested in networking with others who work in this field to exchange ideas regarding helping the faith community address the topic of childhood abuse. Thank you,Joseph Grochowski
3.  Eliza. Erickson
 Several churches have programs which train people to be aware of sexual misconduct and how to prevent it in the church and community. I coordinate the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago's program. You can learn more about it at this webpage: http://www.episcopalchicago.org/ministriespastoral-carecare-keeping-safe.cfm
4.  aream
 That is such an important question. One thing that we have seen on the documentary project with which I work, The Voices and Faces Project, is that a very high percentage of victims seek help and support through their faith-based communities. Yet while those communities often have trained their leaders in responding to death and divorce among those that they lead and serve, there is very little training on how to respond to familial violence of abuse. Further, the emphasis on keeping the family intact, instead of protecting the victim, can have devastating consequences. I believe that we need to reach out to these communities and make such outreach a core component of our advocacy strategy in the anti-violence movement. If we can train opinion shapers and leaders in faith-based communities, they can begin to lead from within. Not long ago, I had the privilege of working with a very visionary pastor, Dr. Jon Ireland, at Ocean Hills Church in Santa Barbara. He created an entire Sunday service around the issue of sexual violence, one that included a slide show of photos of survivors of abuse and sexual violence, a sermon on the issue and a Q &A with an advocate in front of a 500 person congregation. As he noted later, That public acknowledgement of the issue of rape and abuse and the partnership with advocates willing to meet our community where we are - opened the door to a new discussion in our congregation, one that continues today. If we can start be reaching out to leaders in our own faith-based communities, and proposing innovative programs like this one, it will be a giant first step.
For a small agency that works exclusively with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, do you have suggestions as to the best way to raise awareness of this issue? Through media, print, or something else? What would the best use of our limited dollars be? Thank you.
1.  K. Roberts
 My CAC is in a small county, and we have a very limited budget, so we've had to get creative. Our local AM station records and puts into the rotation a 30 second PSA for us each month for free. We get to highlight our topic of the month as well as get a plug for our agency. Many local newspapers will print community event listings for free, which means be sure that any time your organization has anything going on, whether it be an on-going weekly support group, a one-time event, or even a fund-raising dinner, you can (and absolutely should!) get that printed. If you are thinking about spending money without first exhausting all your free opportunities, then you're doing a diservice to your budget no matter the size. Facebook is a powerful tool, and now that it has the capability for company pages, your organization should have one, and for smaller agencies this can sometimes be in lieu of a website that is costly to host and maintain. Craigslist has gotten a bad rap in recent years, but the community forums feature can be a great place to find some of your target populations and mention your services. In terms of televised vs print media, it depends on your community. I know for us, we'd invest in a billboard long before we did a commercial.
What role do you see, if any, that educating survivors about child abuse, would aid them through the healing process?
1.  aream
 Survivors live with a tremendous sense of isolation, particularly if what they have endured, or are enduring, is never acknowledged. Speaking out about violence and abuse - which means putting language around a social justice, public health and human rights issue that devastates far too many children and families - is important in two ways. It reminds the world that we need to take action to stop the violence, and it reminds survivors that they are not alone. There is terrific power in community, and when survivors know that they are a part of a community, self blame and shame can begin to fall away.
What have you found to be the most effective ways to reach victims and let them know about our support and other services?
1.  aream
 I think that there is one rule to follow here: we need meet survivors where they are. For example, we know that the 18-25 year old demographic is heavily online, so we must develop programs that reach them there. In the rape crisis movement we have a national network of centers doing important work and providing terrific services. They are at capacity, and clearly are much-needed. But the truth is, many (if not most) survivors will never step foot in a center or shelter. So we need to find ways to reach the communities to which survivors do turn: their faith-based communities, their online social networks, their schools. Doing this means that we have to get out of our comfort zones, get familiar with new technologies and dare to forge alliances and collaborations in new places and spaces. I also think that we can never underestimate the age-old power of storytelling in reaching those who have lived through abuse. One of the things that we found when we begin sharing the names, faces and stories of survivors on voicesandfaces.org was that for other survivors, seeing that they were part of a community of real women even if those women were only encountered through an online zone was powerful and healing for them. They could then take the next step of reaching out for help within their own communities.
I think the issue of clergy sexual abuse needs to be at the forefront of discussions and the impact it has on our communities. How can we work with our communities where generations of survivors are just now coming out and facing a hostile response from the rest of a small community?
1.  aream
 You are absolutely right, and there is a bigger-picture discussion that needs to be had here as well, one that considers how institutions respond to individual claims of abuse. In the end, most evidence seems to indicate that an institution will not act in the interests of an individual when that individual's claims threaten the stability of the institution. The social, economic, public relations and practical costs are just too great. The status quo takes on all comers, as they say, and this story plays itself out over and over again: in the Catholic Church priest scandal, when rape occurs in the US Military, and in workplace sexual violence cases, where victims are so often marginalized because discounting their claims is ever so much easier than tearing at the fabric of the institution by holding perpetrators accountable. The crisis in the Catholic Church is in a sense specific, but it is also symbolic of a world that too often wants to silence, or ignore altogether, victims. I think our challenge in the face of this is twofold. We need to stand with victims who come forward, and provide services for those women and men, knowing that in many cases they have gone years - decades even - without receiving the help and support that they need. Given that reality, we need to make clear to the public that funding for crisis centers and counseling services is more important than ever. But we must also seize on this occasion to have a bigger-picture public discussion about how often abuse occurs, not only within one community (the Catholic Church) but in many communities. Our challenge to to address the specifics of the priest scandal while acknowledging that rape and abuse occur far too often all over the US, and across the globe. If we don't make that clear, we run this risk of the general public failing to understand sexual violence as the global phenomenon that it is.
Do you have any ideas about reaching victims in rural communities?
1.  aream
 This really is an area where technology can play a huge role. As the world moves increasingly online, those in rural communities find themselves connected to resources and information in new ways through the power of the world wide web. One of the most moving moments I had when we first launched voicesandfaces.org was when I received an email from a young rape survivor in a very remote area on the US. She had found our website through the computer at her local library and wrote I did not know that there were other women who were like me, but now I have found a community. I know that I am not alone. One of our challenges is to create online resources for those in rural areas while using such online tools to direct them to the help and support that may be available to them on the ground. My feeling is that technology must not replace face to face contact or local resources, but it can be used to supplement and support those resources, especially for those who are in remote areas.
How can we make it less intimidating for adult male survivors of CSA to seek available services?
1.  aream
 I think that there are two very important ways that we can do that. One is that we need to consider the use of more neutral language around the issue of sexual violence (this is something I personally have to remind myself to do each time I speak on this issue). Often I find myself referring to those who have lived through sexual violence as women when in fact the more neutral term would be victims or survivors. Having said that, I am not proposing that we take gender out of the discussion: the vast majority of victims are women, and we know that most perpetrators are men. But we also know that men have been and continue to be victimized, and we must do a better job of sending verbal cues that they have a home in this movement. When we launched voicesandfaces.org, one of the very first stories we included in our survivor story gallery was a male survivor of rape, Gabe Wright. We knew that this would send a signal to other male survivors that we stood in solidarity with them, even as the inclusion of Gabe's story served an important public education tool. I think in many ways the men who have lived through SA are very much where women were in the early days of the seventies-era SA movement: there is still too much silence, too few services, too little public acknowledgement of the fact that such violence occurs. It is our job to change that through active policies of inclusion.
I understand it's not uncommon for victims of abuse to repress abusive memories. In your experience, have you found that adult survivors are hesitant to come forward for fear that they won't be believed?
1.  Reggie Allen
 Though our society has undergone so many facets of the activities of daily living,we must still consider that that was not normal is slowly being integrated as part of our society.A person with a past that was not right is now being told to just take a pill or certain procedure and it will all go away.The issue must be handled via each different personality and there is not a norm which means the more training the more experience the better to deal with citizens with unwanted pasts...
2.  aream
 Absolutely. I might argue that we live in a culture of victim disbelief, one in which the dominant narrative surrounding all cases in which rape or abuse are alleged is did this really happen? The notion that false reporting of rape is rampant has moved from the fringes to the mainstream, with devastating consequences for victims. Among the survivors I have interviewed for The Voices and Faces Project, the most frequently cited reason for not coming forward is fear of not being believed. There is a terrific article available on the false reporting of rape at counterquo.org, which is an initiative created to challenge legal and media responses to sexual violence (check out the resources section on the site). In the article, the authors put forth a data-driven refutation of the notion that the false reporting of rape is commonplace. I encourage you to read that.
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