The Gift of Awareness


By: Stephanie March
Writer, Survivor and Advocate

When a child is abused there is a widespread and long-lasting effect on the mind, heart, and soul of the victim. It’s like a crack in a windshield: the damage is contained at first but with each bump in the road, and sometimes without warning, the crack begins to spread. The lucky ones contain the damage to a small enough area that they can still see around and continue on down the road of life for a while. The rest are left with a spiderweb of damage that forces them to stop. It is our duty as citizens of the same roadways to recognize the cracked windshields and extend our hand to the drivers behind the wheel.

“But there are Child Welfare Social Workers and that’s their job,” many think and continue on with their busy lives. While this is true, and their job is vital to identifying and treating victims of child abuse, they need our help. Children are most likely not going to be the ones to call these clinicians and ask for help or point out the crack in their own windshields. It takes other adults to recognize when a child is in danger and needs help.

Once the Child Welfare Social Worker is in the picture their “immediate goal is to build trust with the child”. This is no easy task for anyone to accomplish with a child whose trust has been violated in the most sacred of ways at the most tender of ages. The child is likely to be afraid, angry, or withdrawn. They likely need reassurance from the adults close to them that they will not face retribution for talking about the secrets their tiny souls are carrying.

With child abuse being reported every 10 seconds in the United States, this leaves a highway full of cracked windshields. Child Welfare workers need our help and need us to pay attention to the signs of child abuse that children can exhibit. They can’t identify all of those injured children by themselves. Awareness is key to fighting this epidemic and making our world a safer place for the tiniest of hearts among us.

Info Graphic
Information Provided By helpguide.org

I was one of those tiny hearts with a cracked windshield. My view of life, my mental health, and my soul was forever changed at 4 years old. I was lucky in that the very next day after the crack on my windshield occurred I immediately pointed it out to my parents. My parents in turn called Child Welfare Social Workers who helped get the healing process started. This helped to contain the damage that could have easily spread like a spiderweb over my view of life and everything in it.

Like in my case, resilience is possible for other children if they are given adequate help and care immediately following the discovery of abuse. An article published by Case Western Reserve University professor Dr. Megan R. Holmes states that “Although children who experience maltreatment have an increased risk for developing emotional, behavioral, and social adjustment problems, some maltreated children do not exhibit these negative outcomes”. The article further states that “approximately 10%-20% of maltreated children exhibit resilient functioning”. This gives us a window of hope in an otherwise very dark world.

I believe that I was able to bounce back from the abuse I suffered at such a young age because of the immediate intervention provided by my parents and social workers. Without them I would have undoubtedly suffered much more as the years progressed without therapy and the processing of what happened to me.

Resilience is defined as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens” and “the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, or bent”. I am thankful for this resilience that entered my life at such a young age. I believe it set the tone for other traumas I faced down the road of life, many of which created giant spiderwebs across the glass.

Sites like this one give me hope that more children will have the opportunity to grasp resilience with their tiny minds, hearts, and souls. The importance of awareness and education can not be understated. I might have come forward at the age of 4 but there were later instances when an educated adult could have stopped additional and long-term effects of child abuse if only they’d taken the time to notice the crack in my windshield.

Open your eyes to the children around you and help make this a safer place for them and the generations to follow. Give the gift of awareness and give often.

 

Stephanie March is a writer, survivor, and advocate. You can find her on Twitter or read more at her blog.