Each year, April is designated as child-abuse prevention month by public officials all over the United States, serving as a reminder of the need for all of us to focus on healthy child development. Happy, healthy children grow into happy, healthy, and productive adults and strengthen the economic and social fabric of our community.
April is also designated an Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and of course, the two issues intersect in several important ways.
One of the most obvious points of intersection is that abusers share a lack of regard for the impact their behavior has on the victim.
This month, former vice president Joe Biden was in the news for expressing a brand of affection that fits within his values of warm, hands-on contact with the public. But some people experience his touching as uncomfortable at best, and intrusive at worse.
On the more serious end of the spectrum are the type of sex offenders who develop relationships with victims and can convince themselves that the victim was a willing participant. Leaving Neverland, the HBO documentary describing singer Michael Jackson’s long-term, “loving” relationships with boys is an example.
Radio personality Robin Quivers offers another clear example of this type of ignorance. At age 12, she gathered the courage to confront her sexually abusive father, who apparently was so disconnected from his victim that he believed that she had been enjoying the sex; he never touched Robin again, once he knew her truth.
Here are two much more commonly practiced behaviors which science has shown unequivocally hurt children:
Both hitting and psychological abuse are known sources of toxic stress for children that can affect brain development, behavior, and relationships.
Most parents would do better if they knew better; everyone can spread the word about the impact of hitting and psychological maltreatment. We can have a long-term effect by raising this generation of children to focus on the impact all their behaviors have on others. And let’s reach out to the grown-ups too; as Biden’s video explanation shows, it’s never too late to learn the lesson of considering the effects your behaviors have on others.