There are some alarming statistics that come to the surface when looking at the issue of child abuse and neglect in the United States, and Massachusetts in particular.
In 2016, the most recent year we have data for, 49 states reported a total of 1,700 fatalities due to child maltreatment, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. That’s an average of 4.7 deaths every day.
That same year in Massachusetts, there were 35,791 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect. That would just about fill Fenway Park. Can you even begin to imagine that stadium full of child victims of maltreatment?
Make no mistake. These horrible statistics drive our mission to stop child abuse. But there are two statistics that tell a very different story, and we want to focus your attention there.
A recent report, Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with HOPE, did some digging into the general public’s attitudes about child abuse. Jeff Linkenbach, a keynote speaker at our A View From All Sides Conference, and Dr. Robert Sege, a Children’s Trust Board Member, were co-authors. The findings were phenomenal.
Not only do 87% of adults think child abuse and neglect is a serious problem, but 87% also believe that it is preventable. And they’re right. Child abuse is preventable. We know that. We even know how to do it.
Furthermore, 97% would take action if they suspected child abuse and neglect.
Additionally, only 27% of people think they’re engaged in child abuse prevention activities, but “when asked about their specific actions and behaviors, 80% reported donating goods, money, or time to an organization supporting children and families; 70% had volunteered with children through places of worship, schools, sports, or clubs; and 56% had provided mentorship to a child in their family, neighborhood, or community.”
In other words, over 80% of adults are engaged in the work of child abuse prevention. Most just don’t recognize it.
So we have work to do, but in some ways the work is less daunting than many people think. We need to bridge some gaps – between what we WANT for our children and what we are willing and able to DO for them; between people’s perception of their ability to make a difference and the reality that they can. Indeed, most people already ARE making a difference in children’s lives.
That is why we are trying to reframe the narrative of abuse and neglect. From powerlessness over too many tragedies in the news, to the power of stepping up together. From apparent indifference that allows horror after horror to slip through the cracks of the system, to the countless acts of compassion, caring, kindness, support, and generosity that will never make it to the headlines. From grim statistics to the inspiring truth that we hold the power to make change within our grasp and there is a growing movement that is already taking action.
We can stop child abuse, we are stopping child abuse, and we’re doing it by stepping up together.