In 1983, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse prevention Month. As a result, child abuse and neglect awareness activities are promoted across the country during April of each year. The Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) within the Children’s Bureau coordinates Child Abuse Prevention Month activities at the Federal level, providing information and releasing updated national statistics about child abuse and neglect.
In 1989, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to prevent child abuse began as a Virginia grandmother’s tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse. The blue ribbon is now the symbol of Child Abuse Prevention much as the pink ribbon is the symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness. But, and it’s a big But, the blue ribbon as a Child Abuse Awareness symbol is not as well known. I just Googled it and came up with such non-related topics as Blue Ribbon BBQ, Blue Ribbon Restaurants, Blue Ribbon Campaign for Electronic Frontier Foundation, Blue Ribbon Schools, Blue Ribbon Pet Products and a long line of others. But no Blue Ribbon for child abuse prevention. The Blue Ribbon is a term used to describe or symbolize something of high quality hence its frequent use. What we want to do is make it so linked to Child Abuse Prevention that whenever you Google it that will be the first thing you see.
Bill Murray, of the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, is a popular host on Blog Talk Radio. He is initiating a Blue Ribbon Neighborhood Watch program, marrying the two sister websites…www.LACP.org and www.NAASCA.org. Of significant importance to them is the combination of already existing public safety-minded groups and getting them to discuss the issues of child abuse. The link is www.NAASCA.org/BlueRibbon. Please see what they are trying to do.
In my little corner of the world I’m doing what I can to get as many people as possible to wear a blue ribbon during the month of April. Child sexual abuse is a huge part of child abuse but not a pleasant topic of discussion. Despite the 63 million survivors in the United States (up from 60 million just two years ago) most people still would rather not talk about it……..that is unless they are a survivor. Most survivors are dying inside to talk to someone about what happened to them. But no one wants to listen. A large number of therapists don’t want to listen. They tell their clients that they don’t go back in time. It is only this day forward that they want to hear. I receive so many emails and phone call from people who are desperate to talk about what happened to them only to find that their therapist doesn’t do “backward in time. “A couple years ago I gave a talk at a local community organization. I spoke of what had happened to me and what I was trying to do to eradicate it and provide healing for the survivors. Every one of the 40 or so people in the room turned their heads away as I spoke. One man even stood up, turned his chair around and sat with his back to me the entire time I spoke.
We can’t have this. The world should not be that cowardly. To turn your back on someone who has been sexually abused as a child and wants to talk about it is pure cowardice. A few decades ago people didn’t speak about Uncle Willy who was an alcoholic. If they did they referred to him as not feeling well, has medical problem or any words they could use to disguise the real problem. Today, as a result of AA, we can tell the world if we are an alcoholic and feel no shame. Today we can heal ourselves. Why are we not allowing the same standards for an abuse that is so dastardly, one that destroys lives as surely as cancer does.
I am speaking with city officials about heightening the awareness in our community of child sexual abuse. I am giving talks. I am sending messages all over the Internet. I am doing anything I can so that the whole world will wear blue ribbons. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the proclamation by Ronald Reagan of Child Abuse Awareness Month. We have fifteen months to get our act together, to get rid of our aversion to that “yucky sex stuff”. But we are going to have a dress rehearsal this April. So everyone, please, wear a blue ribbon during that month. You will not only be proclaiming awareness of this epidemic. You will be demonstrating the proof of your courage to the world.