CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 2, 2020) – As U.S. Army Garrison Japan officials proclaimed the start of Child Abuse Awareness Month here April 1, they highlighted resources in the community available to prevent child abuse.
“Especially in light of our current circumstances [with COVID-19], where our kids are out of school and we’re interacting more than we ever have, we want to emphasize that we have tools available for our families through the Family Advocacy Program,” said Col. Thomas Matelski, commander of USAG Japan.
President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first Child Abuse Awareness Month in 1983, and USAG Japan officials commemorate the month each year. Usually the proclamation signing includes a gathering at Army Community Service, but due to social distancing rules this year, Matelski and USAG Japan Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Norman signed the proclamation in garrison headquarters.
Matelski urged members of the community to help prevent child abuse.
“There are a lot of statistics that are out there and they’re actually even higher now because we’re in close quarters all the time, and so we want to make sure that we’re taking care of each other and look[ing] out for one another,” Matelski said.
Stan Austin, manager of the ACS Family Advocacy Program, said it is important that people know that Military Family Life counselors, who do not keep records about who comes to see them, are available for counseling via the internet. Also, on a limited basis, they are available for in-person counseling.
“In certain cases, as long as we’re still doing social distancing, they might be able to set up an appointment,” Austin said. “You could come over to Army Community Service in our classroom. You might be sitting at one end of the room and they’re sitting at the other, but they can do also individual counseling there.”
Members of the community can call ACS at DSN 315-263-3457 or COMM 046-407-3457 to get the numbers for the counselors, Austin said.
“If you’re feeling stressed, you’re feeling frustrated, please give us a call,” Austin said. “We are there for you. We are there to support you and your family and we want to make this time as easy as we possibly can.”
In addition, Austin encouraged members of the community to watch the USAG Japan Facebook page for activities to do with their children at home.
Later in the month, ACS plans to hold a “Hands Are Not for Hurting” craft project where children will make plaster casts of their hands, Austin said, and the page will feature the details on how to participate.
The idea behind the Hands Are Not for Hurting event is to teach children they should use their hands for productive purposes, and not for harming others, Austin said.
“My personal belief as a family advocacy social worker is that the only thing that hitting children does is teach them that hitting is the way to solve problems,” Austin said. “We want parents to teach our [community’s] kids that hands are not for hurting. Hands are for doing fun activities. Hands are for helping.”