Kevin Connors, MS, MFT
In the United States, April is Child Abuse Awareness Month.
This an opportunity to make our colleagues more aware of the extent and impact the child abuse has in the etiology of many emotional and mental health problems that our clients face.
Many of us are aware of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES). While the initial study conducted by Drs. Anda and Feletti was a mere 17,000 participants strong, the study has been replicated and is now in the hands of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and has been endorsed and supported by many other organizations. The primary findings of this landmark study demonstrate that exposure to traumatic events in childhood lead to a plethora of physical health, mental health, legal, and relational problems later in life.
Since 2012, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses on Child Sexual Abuse has been investigating how major institutions in Australia have worked to cover up and hide extensive abuses. In December of 2017, the Royal Commission published its findings. ISSTD is proud to be a stalwart sponsor and supporter of this ground breaking endeavor. This year, at our 35th Annual Conference, the Royal Commission was given our Written Media Award for their ground-breaking work. While the Royal Commission uncovered wide-ranging abuses and efforts to whitewash what was happening; we must ask who else will have the courage to investigate and expose what is going on.
There are other important movements that that are mobilizing and working to change different aspects of how people think about child abuse and how people respond to children. In the United States today, there is a growing movement to end corporal punishment. Organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) and the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) oppose physical punishment in part because spanking increases the risk of child abuse.
Childhood physical and sexual abuses, while garnering much attention, unfortunately are not the only forms of maltreatment. Emotional abuse and neglect are also tremendously harmful and ubiquitous. Even worse, these forms of abuse are harder to document and report while their impact can be more damaging.
Unfortunately too many people – therapists, academicians, and lay people alike – don’t fully grasp how pervasive abuse is throughout our culture. In some respects what we are attempting is to shift cultural norms. While this may sound a bit daunting, I invite you to consider what Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has done. From a grieving mother’s kitchen table to a national movement, MADD has cut traffic fatalities from drunk driving in half.
ISSTD has for decades worked to understand and educate people about the impact of trauma and abuse on children and how to recognize and treat dissociation and dissociative disorders in children. One of the earliest of our Special/Interest Groups focuses on Children and Adolescents. This year, at our annual face to face board meeting, the ISSTD Directors commissioned a task force co-chaired by Heather Hall and Michael Salter to look at Trauma and Dissociation as a public health issue.
I encourage all members of our society to support the work of ISSTD, and other fellow travelers, in making colleagues, friends, and neighbors aware of child abuse in all its many forms and the need for everyone to get involved in changing how we respond to childhood maltreatment.