We are working to exist in a world of uncertainty and redefine what this temporary normal is, all while trying to manage our own mental health experiences and maintain some essence of what normalcy used to look like pre-pandemic; I don’t imagine that these words come as a surprise. It can be challenge to recognize that despite all of this, and so much more, there are things that we can still come to expect. April has been dedicated to raising awareness, promoting resources, and encouraging strategies to impact the prevalence of instances of child abuse, and sexual assault. This year, Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month are celebrating their 37
th and 19
th anniversaries, respectively. In addition, the month of April is also home to National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which has been identified as April 19
th through the 25
th. This week is dedicated to promoting crime victims’ rights, and honoring those who have experienced crime, as well as those who advocate on their behalf. In addition, each awareness effort has announced their respective themes for this year, which are as follows:
Strong & Thriving Families
Sexual Assault Awareness Month:
“I ask” (focusing and promoting consent)
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week:
Seek Justice, Ensure Victims’ Rights, Inspire Hope
Typically, April brings rallies, dedication ceremonies, in-person education events, and awareness walks. I think it is fair to say that this year, the efforts of for sexual assault and child abuse prevention, as well as events in recognition of crime victims’ rights will look differently. Although it may not be what we have typically come to expect, we have an opportunity to draw on the themes and resources that will be provided through these awareness month initiatives to build skills in resiliency and to work together as communities in creative ways to address issues of child abuse and sexual assault, and to support survivors of crime. When considering the
how of this, it seems only appropriate to draw guidance from characteristics that are identified through the Protective Factors Framework. This framework, outlines “
an organized set of strengths-based interventions aimed at preventing child maltreatment and promoting healthy outcomes”. The key protective factors are: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and social and emotional competence of children. For more about the Protective Factors Framework, click
here. Keeping the Protective Factors Framework in mind, and considering the themes of this month’s prevention topics here are some things that you can do to increase awareness and decrease risk factors:
- Bring attention and awareness to these issues on your social media or agency websites. Sample banners, messages, and proclamations can be found at the websites below:
- Child Abuse Prevention Month: U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/
- Sexual Assault Awareness Month: National Sexual Violence and Resource Center – https://www.nsvrc.org/saam
- National Crime Victims’ Rights Week: The Office of Justice Programs’, Office for Victims of Crime – https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/
- Participate in this #30DaysofSAAM Instagram Contest, found here .
- As a parent, recognize that you don’t have to be perfect. Here is a resource from Zero to Three about Parenting in the Time of Coronavirus and Social Distancing and here is a resource from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network that can help families cope with the pandemic.
- Know that parents and caregivers are doing the best that they can with the knowledge that they have, based on the experiences that they have lived. That said, it is a stressful time, placing many children and families at a heightened risk. Connect with those caregivers in your social circles to see how they are doing, and if they need support.
- As a nation, we recognize issues around child care are prominent stressors for many families. If you are an essential worker struggling to find child care, an individual struggling to pay for child care, or a caregiver who needs information about themes of parenting or child development, reach out to your local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Program for support. You can find your county’s local CCR&R here.
- Use this time to talk to your children about consent. The National Sexual Violence and Resource Center has developed guidelines for this conversation, which can be found here .
- Reach out to survivors of crime and check in on them. Express gratitude for their strength.
- In his book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk has identified social support as something that should be “the backbone of all prevention and treatment” efforts. Although we are in a time of social distancing, and isolation for some, we must maintain these connections, and continue to nurture relationships.
- Have virtual dinners with friends and family through platforms like Google Hangout, Zoom, and Skype.
- With those in your house, make time to communicate and engage in activities that strengthen the relationship bonds.
- If someone crosses your mind, reach out to them via phone, email, or virtual platform.
- If someone shares with you that they are a victim of a crime, believe them. Supports have been identified below that survivors can access for additional support.
- If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Organizations to support you are still opened and able to provide support remotely:
- Parent Helpline: 1-800-CHILDREN
- New York State Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-942-6906
- New York State Department of Health’s List of Rape Crisis Programs by County: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/sexual_violence/rscvpp_providers.htm
- New York State’s Children’s Advocacy Centers, by county: https://www.nrcac.org/find-a-cac/new-york-state-cacs/
- New York States Office of Mental Health COVID-19 Emotional Support Line: 1-844-863-9314