Our kids are being hurt
The extent and frequency of violence and sexual assaults inflicted on innocent children is shocking. Why do we allow this to happen? For too long, child abuse has lived in silence, secrecy and shame. We deny it exists in our communities and families, but in fact it knows no boundaries and transcends all backgrounds, walks of life and cultures.
Child abuse is called an “invisible crime” because no one wants to see it and no one wants to talk about it. But child abuse is happening right now and, for thousands of children and youth, the trauma is not invisible.
A child who suffers abuse may become violent, do poorly in school (they’re 30% less likely to graduate from high school) and pull away from friends.
A youth may run away from home, struggle with addiction, take part in criminal activity, become homeless (they’re 26x more likely to be homeless), attempt suicide or even become an abuser.
An adult may struggle with drugs, alcohol, depression or other mental health issues, engage in criminal activity (they’re 2x as likely to be arrested) or experience homelessness.
The number of child abuse cases in Calgary and the surrounding areas is staggering — and this region is by no means unique. This is an issue that affects too many. It is an issue in which we, as a society, share ownership and responsibility.
It is well beyond the time to open up and face the issue of child abuse. It is time to ensure children, youth and families get the support they need, to bring perpetrators to justice and to end child abuse.
Every kind of child abuse hurts
When people think about child abuse, they usually think of physical and sexual abuse. However, more than 50% of children and youth who come into provincial government care in Alberta do so because of neglect.
There are 4 main types of child abuse:
Verbal attacks on a child’s sense of self, repeated humiliation or rejection. Exposure to violence, drugs, alcohol abuse or severe conflict in the home, forced isolation, restraint or causing a child to be afraid much of the time may also cause emotional harm. Emotional abuse rarely happens only once and it is usually part of a pattern of how the child is being treated.
Any lack of care that causes serious harm to a child’s development or endangers the child in any way. Physical neglect is the failure to meet the child’s day-to-day basic needs. This includes failing to provide adequate nutrition, clothing, shelter, health care and protection from harm. Emotional neglect is the failure to meet the child’s ongoing emotional needs for affection and a sense of belonging.
The intentional use of force on any part of a child’s body that results in injuries. It may be a single incident or a series or pattern of incidents.
The improper exposure of a child to sexual contact, activity or behaviour. It includes any sexual touching, intercourse, exploitation or exposure and can be perpetrated by anyone, including a parent or guardian, caregiver, extended family, friend, neighbour or stranger.