by Suzanne Mulligan and Dr. Donna Mitchell
We know that child abuse and violence against adolescent and adult women is a serious societal problem. If we are ever going to effectively address this problem, it must be through prevention, and there are several key components which any successful prevention program must incorporate.
Firstly, awareness of the issue of child abuse and woman abuse must be raised. Many children think that what is happening to them is "normal" and happens to all of their friends. We have heard numerous examples from adults who were abused as children and from children who witness violence in their home that they needed someone else to confirm that the abusive behavior was, in fact, not "normal." Secondly, it must be possible to talk about the issue in an atmosphere that values the self-worth of the victim and does not blame her or him. Examples and models of constructive and positive ways of handling conflict must be available, thereby enabling the student to change, and hand in hand with these models must come information about resources for both victims and potential helpers. Finally, a prevention program must also pass on the encouragement to know that we as individuals have the right and ability to make choices about how we act, who we choose as friends, and what we do with our lives. The end result of any successful prevention program is empowerment to break the cycle.
The Community Child Abuse Council has been working for over 15 years to deal with these issues. The Council has broad community representation from over twenty agencies and organizations including hospitals, government, child and adolescent services, women's shelters, public health services, and local school boards. The mandate of the Council is to reduce the incidence of child abuse and the impact on children of wife assault and other forms of family violence by developing and implementing prevention programs, increasing public awareness with regard to child abuse and family violence, and advocating on behalf of the victims of abuse.