ACS' clothesline sheds light on a dark issue: child abuse
April 6, 2012
VILSECK, Germany -- As both Child Abuse Awareness Month and Month of the Military Child, April ensures that the focus stays on children.
To help USAG Grafenwoehr remember, the Family Advocacy Program is shedding light on the staggering number of local child abuse cases. In an endeavor to show the rate of child abuse in the community, FAP has placed clotheslines around Grafenwoehr and Rose Barracks strung with different colored T-shirts, marking the number of child abuse cases in the garrison in 2011.
Each shirt displays the type of abuse and the number of instances that occurred within the community in 2011. The black shirt is neglect; there were 64 separate cases last year. The yellow shirt is physical and has 18 cases. Emotional abuse is represented by the blue shirt with 18 accounts. And sexual abuse is the red shirt, with one instance.
Grafenwoehr's clothesline of 93 child abuse cases puts the garrison at twice the Army average, according to Tammy Ricketts, FAP director.
Jenny Walker, FAP homecare consultant and head of the clothesline project, asserts the reasons behind Grafenwoehr's high rate of child abuse stem from the combined strain of a military lifestyle in a foreign environment. Young families often endure consistent deployments away from their families, friends and home. Spouses left behind and feeling alone can spiral into depression, which can lead to widespread neglect of their homes and children.
These instances of abuse have not passed unnoticed within the community. Last year's clothesline elicited the horrified, do-something response any advocacy group hopes for in an awareness campaign.
Ginella Lane, FAP administrator, remembers seeing community members at the gym crowd around the clothesline display last year, disturbed by the high numbers of child abuse.
"They were saying, 'I have to do something,'" recalled Lane.
"People were shocked because they were not aware," explained Walker. "That's why we do these things: to raise awareness."
Though the incidents of different kinds of abuse changed from 2010 to 2011, the overall number of cases in the garrison remained the same at 93.
These stable numbers represent both a minor victory and a minor defeat for FAP and other organizations committed to child safety. As Ricketts explained, "It's good there's no increase, but it's bad we didn't see a drop."
For the community to see this number decrease, FAP calls upon the community to amp-up reporting of suspected child abuse. The signs of child abuse are easy to spot, explained Walker.
A child's unkempt or dirty appearance and suspicious bruising or behavior can indicate abuse.
"Reporting is a huge issue because if we don't know what's going on, we can't fix it," said Walker.
FAP also provides outreach to families or individuals within the community. Many of these programs, such as Love and Logic and Super Spouse, can help offset the conditions in which child abuse often arises.
"Our community has all the resources to help strengthen families," said Ricketts. "What we need is more people to take advantage of these resources."
Most of all, explained Walker, these programs give families and spouses an opportunity for communication, guidance and support.
"If your Soldier is deploying for nine months to a year, you can't do that alone," said Walker. "You know how Soldiers have battle buddies, families need that, too."
To report child abuse in the Grafenwoehr community, call the military police at 114 or DSN 476-2490.