KARA reports on the issues of child abuse.

This article submitted by CASA volunteer Mike Tikkanen

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I learned about child abuse by accident.

There was no media attention to child abuse growing up and no one in my life spoke of it.

Even terrible things happening to children in my neighborhood escaped my vision and understanding.

Later in life, a persuasive member of a group I belonged to convinced me that I should become a volunteer guardian ad litem speaking for traumatized State Ward children in court (also known as a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate)

My first case was a family of eight children from four to 15 years old, all sexually abused by their parents.  The case files were a foot thick with hundreds of pages of terrible things done to these children.  It was hard to believe and very disturbing to me to know these children and what had been happening to them for many years.

This case must have been the worst example of child abuse in the state.

Looking back 25 years, I remember thinking the program manager (Sue) was giving me the very worst cases in the county all the time.  How wrong I was.  Hundreds of other CASA guardians ad litem were dealing with the same serious cases of child abuse and trauma.

Historically, my community only allows the most extreme cases of extensive, repeated abuse and trauma into the system.  Bruised, raped and bleeding was how one of my administrators termed it.

My family, friends and business associates hated me talking about child abuse.  They would rather not know about this uncomfortable subject. To this day it’s true.

I began speaking to Rotaries and other business, religious and political groups about statistics and my experiences as a volunteer CASA guardian ad litem.

For the first few years, almost no one understood this conversation.

Unless people had been directly impacted by child abuse and traumatized children; teachers, social workers, foster / adoptive parents, and abused children, my presentations just left people unhappy and confused.

My experience in this field continues to show me that too many of us have a false or misguided understanding of the terror of abuse and the long term effects of trauma a child suffers because of rape, beating or other forms of abuse and neglect.  Abused Children have no voice in their homes, the media or the state house. They don’t even know that what is happening them is wrong.  Their only hope is a caring community.

Instead of confronting the issues, there is little reporting or transparency in the system and we use euphemisms to describe terrible things done to kids like “maltreatment” or “domestic violence”.

Child rape is not maltreatment, it is a crime.

Domestic violence is an understatement; children watching their mother or sibling raped or beaten is as traumatizing as being raped or beaten.

Few of us have an accurate perception of what trauma and abuse do to a child (3 minute ACEs video) and the depth and scope of the problems generational child abuse are causing these children and our nation.  The science of epigenetics now shows that childhood trauma manifests itself in how our genes express themselves into the next generation.  Child abuse can literally last forever unless it is interrupted and healed.

The numbers of children damaged by life altering abuse continues to grow and our communities are suffering the effects of damaged youth becoming dysfunctional citizens unable to cope within a punishment oriented system that trends toward expulsion and incarceration and away from healing and acceptance.

Without better understanding of the causes and effects of child abuse by the voting public, there will never be enough support for the people, programs, policies and volunteerism that can interrupt child abuse and heal the children and families suffering from it.

Less support for teachers and mental health in schools, fewer crisis nurseries and other early childhood programs are a likely outcome in cities and communities suffering the economic impact of an extended COVID pandemic.

If this becomes the reality, our cities will be filled with more crime, violence, struggling schools and nine-year recidivism rates approaching 90%.

With the COVID pandemic locking children in toxic homes with no escape to school or other mandated reporters, there is a big spike in domestic violence and child abuse.

It is up to those of us who can to step forward and find things we can do to interrupt abuse and heal these families and their children.

Most religious, community and business organizations make opportunities available for their members to participate in a broad range of opportunities volunteering, donating or otherwise being involved with growing support for those people, policies and programs trying to lift at risk families and heal abused and neglected children.

KARA’s resource page gives a sample of programs available today.

“What we do to our children, they will do to society” (Pliny the Elder, 2000 years ago)

All Adults Are the Protectors of All Children

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