Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Does Child Abuse Happen?

This is a question I am often asked.  Why does child abuse happen?  The last time I was asked was just a few days ago by my 10 year old, “Mom, why do people do those things to kids?” after she overheard me telling someone on the phone what workshops I recently attended at the 12th National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in New Orleans hosted by the National Children’s Advocacy Center.  Answering a 10 year old about sexual abuse is difficult but I gave it my best shot in my “I want to educate her but not freak her out” mom way.  Not sure how I did, but it did spark this idea for the blog; what about a “Question of the Day” series.  No one is ever really comfortable asking questions about child abuse, especially “why” questions, so I thought I’d tackle those hard to ask and answer questions, especially the why questions!  I’ll start with Why does child abuse happen? And over the next few weeks I’ll answer questions like, Why do kids bully?, Why are so many kids sexually abused/are those numbers real?, Why do kids send sext messages and cyberbully each other?, Why is Florida 4th in the nation for the number of child abuse reports?, and the biggie, Why don’t kids speak up?  And to give you some insight into the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Why was the Foundation formed and why do we do what we do?
So let’s start with “Why does child abuse happen?”  Are abusers simply terrible, evil people who shouldn’t be parents? Well that’s what many people think, and I guess the answer to that question depends on the type of abuse you’re thinking about – whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, or abandonment.  The media often depicts only the most heinous of abuse cases – the kids locked in closets and fed dog food, the kids sold by their parents and sexually exploited, and of course the tragedies like the Lauren Book and Jaycee Dugard cases – and many professionals and agencies perpetuate that stereotype by passing along those stories and scare statistics on their own blogs and social media sites.
But in reality, the majority of child abuse cases that are substantiated in the US are cases of neglect and not at the hands of evil, terrible parents, but parents or caregivers who lack education, resources and support to be better and do better.  There is an ecological model of risk and protective factors that explains what puts one child/family at a higher risk for abuse over another – quite simply when the risk factors outweigh the protective factors a parent, caregiver or family is at a higher risk of abusing their child(ren) or of their child becoming a victim of abuse or neglect.
Click Here for the social-Ecological Model of Child Abuse and Nelgect.
So while it is true that abuse and neglect can happen to anyone, there are reasons it happens in some families and  in some homes and not others, and this is important because it gives us a knowledge base from which to prevent abuse and neglect – and here at the Monique Burr Foundation, that is what we are all about!  So now you have a better understanding of “Why abuse happens”.  Stay tuned to a future post where I’ll address what you can do about it!

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