One new trend in the facebook community is to donate your user pic in the name of various causes. It’s the least a person can do.
It is actually the least that they can do.
This is what is known as “Slactivism,” and it occurs when technology creates very fast and simple actions a person can do instead of putting real effort in. For certain activities, like petition signing and fund raising, it is very useful, because it can encourage the masses to act the way you want. But for issues such as child abuse, it actually is counter-productive, because the problem of child abuse is not that people don’t know it exists, it that people prefer to ignore it when they see it. And when a person had to make the choice between the very difficult task of searching out and responding to the signs of child abuse, or the simple task of changing your user pic for a week, what exactly do you think people will do? If you look at history, it’s not generally the former, and the latter provides a nice little bit of absolution.
There is an alternative to the slactivism: making the commitment to make the hard and often frightening choices. This entails not only standing up to do what is right, but also making the effort to actually learn how to do it the right way.
1) Educate yourself about child abuse. Know the signs and symptoms. And when you see the signs, don’t allow yourself to explain them away because you are afraid to get involved. When I’ve worked with patients who are survivors of abuse, a common complaint made was that they always showed signs, and some even tried to explicitly report what was happening, and got ignored. In fact, a child who reports being sexually abused is actually 1/2 as likely to get help as a child whose abuse gets discovered by other means, because people would rather ignore the abuse than deal with it.
2) Know who to report suspected abuse to. Contrary to the popular myth, the reporting of an abusive situation will not result in the automatic removal of the child from the home. In fact, in many cases where abuse has been found and verified, children are still kept in the home. All a report will do is start an investigation process, whose end goal is to determine what is best for the child.
3) Take steps to prevent abuse by being more active in your local community. Abuse can only occur when people choose to ignore it. In addition, not all abuse comes from sadism on the part of parents, somtimes the parent’s just don’t know what to do. Being part of your community, volunteering for programs such as big brothers/big sisters, Scouting, sports teams, etc. not only makes the abuse that is happening harder to hide, but it also supplies the necessary assistance to overwhelmed parents, preventing them from becoming abusive parents.
4) Support groups that assist parents. There are programs that have been found to be effective in proven to be effective in preventing abuse, but they need support. For instance, home visitation programs, where overwhelmed and at risk parents are identified and provided with various forms of support and assistance have been shown to cut child abuse rates IN HALF! There are also a number of national and international organizations that actively educate and take action against child abuse that are effective in raising real awareness and petitioning for real solutions. The programs, however, need both financial and political support, and so they need people to help raise awareness and financial support.
5) Look inside yourself to be on guard against how you may be perpetuating the abuse. Most people don’t know, and probably don’t want to know, how they themselves enable the abuse. When you isolate people because they are weird, or withdrawn, you leave them vulnerable. When you participate or act as a bystander or harassment and bullying, you reinforcing the misconception that abuse is normal and the child should remain silent in his or her pain. When you tell or laugh at the jokes about abuse, you remove the shame from the horrific acts, and allow the abuser to feel the abuse is condoned.
There really is a lot a person can do to help fight child abuse. The fact that child abuse is still the problem it is today is due to the fact that despite all the things that can be done, people choose to do nothing. The quick and easy actions, like a user pic change, really does not amount to much, as the risk is that people will change their pic, feel they have done enough, and then continue with the inaction that allows the abuse to perpetuate.
In the end, if you want to do something about child abuse, you actually have to do something.