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The Inspiration for The List  

Adapted from The Introduction to the book, Be An Inspiration!

The list of 101 Things You Can Do To Prevent Child Abuse is based on my experience as a survivor, advocate, and over 30 years in human behavior and potential. 

 

As a victim of child abuse I learned to be quiet, observant, and careful. I watched how people interacted. I wondered if my life was so different. 

 

Curiosity turned into a passion for understanding. By the time I was 20, I was fascinated with the study of handwriting and the insight it provided into character and personality. Countless analyses proved that we may share similar traits, like generosity, sensitivity, and imagination, but our experience and perception will determine how we direct that energy. I also learned that we all have stuff—fears not reconciled, a reality we are not ready to face, or difficulties we are working through—yet, we are amazing creatures still; not only for what we accomplish or dream of doing, but simply because we are here.

Eventually, that insight had to be turned inward. In my late 30s, healing became a priority. A flood of memories had to be acknowledged and reconciled before I could move forward. I stopped and started plenty of times but kept at it, holding steady like a candle flame guiding me to the truth. When I persevered and faced the monsters on my path, my recovery became truly profound. The fear, anger, and hurt dissolved. I understood, and with that came compassion and a resolve to do something to stop the cycle—it became a beacon.

When a friend suggested a program that was dedicated to providing a voice for abused children, I was eager to apply my experience and passion toward such a positive goal. My role as a court-appointed special advocate was to represent and make recommendations in the best interests of abused and neglected children in the judicial process. The child advocate is the only person whose sole responsibility is to provide this important perspective. I threw myself into this work.

To my surprise it was not the families but the child protection system that provided the greatest challenge. Somehow I expected everyone involved to get it, to understand the dynamic of abuse, but not everyone did. Some had their own wounds to heal while others simply lacked the necessary training, and many organizations within the network of responders were understaffed and overwhelmed. It became quite clear that, although important and necessary services were being provided, this system couldn’t do it all.

Everyone wants to stop child abuse, as a societal concern or on a personal level, but most people don’t know what to do. And for an issue that still thrives in secrecy and shame, answers can be hard to come by. Where do you start?

We know that physical abuse affects children physically; that we can see, but all abuse affects children emotionally, psychologically, and

mentally. We also know that those issues unresolved may later manifest as physical problems. And when conservative data tells us that 1 in every 25 American children experience abuse, neglect, or endangerment, odds are everyone knows someone who’s been there. It seems more than possible that somewhere within this complexity could be found not one but a wide range of answers waiting to be acted upon, to become part of the solution.

So why isn’t more being done? There is an awareness/denial dynamic to overcome. Society as a whole is aware of violence against

children and wants to do something about it, but many can only take it so far. They acknowledge the issue but don’t want to discuss it or

hear the details because that’s where it gets real. The fear rises, pain and confusion become more apparent, and they tune out and turn away—not realizing that they don’t have to have all the answers. Overwhelmed, they feel insignificant and helpless—hopeless—much like a child victim who doesn’t know what to do or who to ask for help. Yet, talking about it, exploring it from every view including victim, offender, enabler, bystander, and survivor is the only way we will truly learn what needs to be done to heal and stop the cycle. And it can be done! That’s the good news.

So what can we do,  what can anyone do to prevent child abuse? I thought about some of the things survivors may not have experienced;

the good things like healthy interaction, loving support, encouragement for their growing interests and skills, and safety in their own homes. I imagined what a world would look like where children were not abused. In that space, The List came tumbling out—all 101 Things .

Rather than see the problem as too large, which may prevent us from doing anything at all, we can consider the countless ways to renovate or rebuild our environment to reflect more peace, harmony, and looking out for each other. In that light, there are many things we can do—at least 101—and some of which you may already be doing. It’s all about knowledge, understanding, and intention. With that, it’s all about sharing, setting examples, and truly communicating every day.

In 2013, The List became a book with #58 as the title. Be An Inspiration! presents ideas, suggestions, and resources to promote positive action, advocacy, and healing. 101 Things You Can Do because, ultimately, it comes down to individual choice. The more you know, the more you can do. The more you try to understand, the more your perspective shifts. And by doing these things mindfully, the more likely we are to create a community, large or small, where every child is loved, nurtured, encouraged, and cherished—not because they are someone’s future but simply because they are here. In the process, we will touch a heart, protect a child, inspire others, and create a more loving environment for everyone.

Debbie Jenae

© 2019 Deborah Jenae. All rights reserved.

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