As we enjoy the beautiful—if soggy—spring weather of Southern California, we are also reminded that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month is the time to emphasize the safety of children by working together in our communities, with schools and social service agencies, to prevent child abuse and promote education about it.
Domestic violence is never acceptable, and children of battered women are often abused. Children are vulnerable, afraid to communicate and frequently remain silent. Child abuse occurs in all types of families, and as community advocates we need to look for warning signs such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.
If a child is withdrawn, fearful, anxious or intimidated, or frequently misses school, she or he may be at risk. If a child has a sudden change in eating habits, develops a new fear of people or places, or refuses to talk about a secret, she or he may be a victim of child abuse.
It’s important to stand up for a child in need. Call law enforcement agencies, child welfare services or 911 in an emergency if you suspect that child abuse is occurring. Be specific on what you have observed or documented. Help stop the cycle of abuse and neglect. By intervening and reporting child abuse as early as possible, you are helping to provide a voice for those so desperately in need.
April has also been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual assault occurs without the consent of both individuals. Sexual assault usually happens with force, under threatening circumstances and against a person’s will. Rape is a form of sexual assault and can happen on a date, with a friend or acquaintance, or when you are alone.
Victims include children and adults. One in five women may experience rape during college, and many attacks go unreported. No matter where or how it happens, rape, child molestation and sexual assault are never the victim’s fault.
Our community does not tolerate sexual assault. Consequently, we need to stand together to implement prevention, safety and accountability.
A person who engages in a sexual assault may be prosecuted criminally. It’s essential to contact your local law enforcement agency or seek hospital emergency care immediately if you are a victim or know a victim of sexual assault.
Victims need to be aware of and observe the following advice: Do not take a bath, shower, eat, chew gum or brush your teeth, as these activities may destroy evidence. If possible, carry an extra set of clothes as the original clothes may be collected for testing.
If you believe your were drugged and don’t remember what happened to you, obtaining a urine sample is critical for screening. Do not wash any bedding or clothes or dispose of anything before checking with law enforcement officials. Try not to change anything at the scene of the assault.
Sexual assault survivors have the right to have a victim advocate and a support person present during interviews with law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.
We need to hold those who abuse power and control accountable. Everyone deserves to feel safe. Let’s work together to increase community awareness and partner with parents to take action and break the cycles of domestic violence. Let’s prevent child abuse and sexual assault!
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
To report child abuse or neglect in San Diego, please call, (858) 560-2191. Within the State of California, call toll free (800) 344-6000. Calls are staffed by trained social workers who receive calls about child abuse, molestation and neglect. Child Help USA can be reached at (800) 422-4453, or click here for a list of child abuse reporting phone numbers by state.
In seeking help and confidential services of sexual assault in San Diego:
24-hour toll-free crisis line: (888) 385-4657.
Center for Community Solutions Assault Victim Advocates help survivors navigate complicated systems and make informed decisions, call (858) 272-5777.
Women’s Resource Center: (760) 757-3500
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: (800) 656-HOPE (4673)