USAG DAEGU, South Korea -- Each year in April we observe Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse. Though we reflect on this important issue for a full month annually, Family Advocacy Program Manager, Toshanika Kennington reminds us that the fight against child abuse is a daily battle in military communities across the globe.
In April, you may have seen people wearing a looped blue ribbon or a blue ribbon pin in observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month and wondered about its significance. There is a deep meaning behind what has become a nationally recognized symbol for child abuse prevention. In 1989, a grandmother decided to put a blue ribbon in her car in memory of her grandson who died from child abuse; the blue color representing the bruises of the victim.
On April 6, Ms. Kennington handed out blue ribbons at the Camp Henry gate to remind people of the importance of child abuse prevention and why it's commemorated each year.
"Every child is special and needs our care and protection," remarked Kennington. "Wear this pin to show that you stand up for children and will do your part to put an end to child abuse forever."
Ms. Kennington discussed the types of abuse most often encountered in military families. "Child abuse, also known as child maltreatment, is when you mistreat children. The common forms of child abuse in military families are neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Studies show that the biggest increase of child abuse is during times of deployment due to stress and the absence of the parent or partner."
In the past, statistics showed child abuse rates in military families were about half that of the civilian population. Since 2003 however, the rates of child maltreatment and family violence in military families have outpaced the rates reported for non-military families.
Other studies found that the rate of domestic violence and alcohol abuse are linked to child abuse as well. "When you have domestic violence and alcohol abuse you'll see an increase in child maltreatment in military families," said Kennington. "About 30 to 60 percent of military families experiencing domestic violence also report experiencing child maltreatment. In the Army, child maltreatment occurs twice as often in families with a history of domestic violence because they experience and observe it. Anytime you have any past trauma, you are more than likely to experience it again within your own family."
Fortunately for military members there are programs that the USAG Daegu Army Community Service FAP provides. "The FAP is the military's child protection agency. We have parenting classes, prevention education and we do our annual awareness campaign. We have these programs to make the community aware of the resources we have regarding child abuse and so they know that we are here to support them."
"When we witness someone who is experiencing child abuse we should report it! It is one of the most important things you can do. You don't have to feel like you are telling on somebody. As a community we need to come together to protect our children to make sure that they are safe even if they are not your child. We want you to be supportive, not gossiping about child abuse. We want to make sure that we take care of our children in this community. We also want to be attentive, show consistent care and supervise children to help them thrive. We always say you are mandated to report in good faith. Anybody who is aware or has seen or suspects any types of child abuse, please contact the military police, call FAP or contact social work services to make a report," reiterated Kennington.
This year's Child Abuse Prevention Month theme was: Strong Communities Strengthen Families, but child abuse prevention is not a one month commitment. Abuse occurs every day in every corner of the world. Without every one doing their part, the Army cannot be fully ready to build a strong and resilient community.
"Child Abuse is never okay. No one deserves to be abused and anyone can be a victim. Children are the future of our nation. It is our job to ensure they grow up with a strong, supportive system," says Kennington.
For more information, please contact USAG Daegu ACS at DSN: 768-8126/7112.