April is both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Both are complex, dark, depressing subjects that most of us would rather not talk about. Perhaps that is why they both have their official ‘months’ during one of the most beautiful, spring, hope, and renewal times of year. I’m writing this post on the last day of April partly because I’ve procrastinated and wanted to avoid the topics myself. But I am also ambivalent about the practice of observing national months of awareness of such important public health issues, since awareness and prevention efforts should happen every month, every day, by all of us. These are societal issues that we are all implicated in perpetuating if we do nothing to stop them.
I want to acknowledge the hard work of all the wonderful school nurses, sexual assault center nurses, counselors, and other support staff who work with children and adult survivors of child abuse and/or sexual assault. Having worked as a nurse practitioner in several domestic violence shelters, in urban safety net hospital emergency departments, and with street-involved youth (with high rates of both childhood abuse and sexual assault on the streets), I know first-hand how emotionally challenging this work can be. It is important work, so let’s support them in any way we can.
Here are some of my favorite current resources related to child abuse prevention and sexual assault awareness/prevention:
National Child Abuse Prevention Making Meaningful Connections 2014 Prevention Resource Guide, by DHHS, Administration for Children and Families. (Full disclosure: I was a health care provider consultant on the development of this guide but there were hundreds of consultants/contributors including community and family members).
Moriah Silver’s Huffington Post article “The not so shocking news about campus sexual assault,” (4-29-14). (Shame on us at colleges/universities!)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) by RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network).
And this quote, from the last poem of a lovely collection of poems sent to me by Jane Seskin, a longtime therapist in NYC who works with women dealing with intimate partner violence:
Repeat/ 3 times a day.
I’m grateful/to be alive.
I deserve to be treated/with kindness and respect.”
(From: Witness to Resilience: Stories of Intimate Violence, 2013, Jane Seskin.)