Love is…not abuse: Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

As the video above shows, love is many things…but it’s not abuse.

Educators, advocates and community groups will try to stress that point during this month’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

The first Teen Dating Violence Awareness month was first recognized by Congress in 2010, an expansion of the awareness week, which started in 2006.

Defined as “the physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking,” teen dating violence can occur in person or electronically, between a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend.

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Human Trafficking: Global Phenomena. Domestic Concern.

Human Trafficking: Global Phenomena. Domestic Concern.

Over the last several years, the topic of human trafficking – or modern day slavery as many advocates call it – has captured the attention and pulled on the heart strings of the American public. U.S. citizens became indignant as they realized that slavery, something they thought fixed a century ago, was still growing in the world. Since then, countless organizations, advocacy campaigns, and fundraisers have been created to help the victims of global trafficking, especially the women and girls trafficked in our country.

Unfortunately, many people still don’t know that these same horror stories happen in their state, their county, their city. Recent reports cite that American born girls and boys are just as likely to be trafficked domestically as immigrant children. Amy Fine Collin recently wrote a story for Vanity Fair on domestic sex trafficking about two trafficked American girls, Gwen and Alicia, and the police officers, lawyers, social workers, and doctors who helped free them. “A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day—and a “righteous” pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings,” Collin writes. This is an American reality, one that unfortunately is targeting younger and younger children.

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Universal Children’s Day

Picture in your mind, if you will the last image you saw of a child. What was that image, sad or happy? What did the picture make you want to do? What memories did it trigger for you? Perhaps the picture was of a happy child.

Now think of the last picture you saw of a child from a different country. What does that bring to mind? Maybe, it’s a picture of a starving child or children that have witnessed or experienced violence through trafficking, disease, war, and exploitation.

Is that picture of the American child completely true? Are all of our nation’s children always happy, healthy, and vibrant? Or, do some of them really mirror those of children from abroad?

Keeping this thought in mind, the Safe Start Center would like to highlight a very important awareness day. On December 14, 1954 the United Nations General Assembly declared the observance of a Universal Children’s Day. November 20th was inaugurated as the official day because of the adoption of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, commemorating the importance of children’s welfare as a worldwide truth. Though the United States was an active participant in the writing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it has not yet been able to ratify it, but many American programs like Safe Start are working to promote the importance of protecting children and their welfare. When writing the We the Children: End-decade review of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children Report of the Secretary-General (2001) it quotes a phrase at the heart of the declaration:

“We were all children once. And we all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind.”

While promotion of children’s welfare is happening across the nation, the state of America’s children is still grim. According to a recent report from the BBC America, America’s Child Death Shame, a picture of a perfectly happy American child is not an accurate one. The report highlights that every five hours a child dies from abuse or neglect in the United States. The importance of understanding that children are at risk is also emphasized by Polyvictimization: Children’s Exposure to Multiple Types of Violence, Crime, and Abuse, a new study by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) that describes polyvictimization,  victimization through exposure to many kinds of violence. It tells us that at minimum, 1 in 10 children are exposed to violence in their lifetime, and once a child has been exposed, they are at higher risk of being repeat victims. Most important of all, it repeats that this variety of exposure is far more harmful than multiple exposures from a single source.

The Safe Start Center’s mission is directly targeted toward the ideas promoted by the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. We do so through the promotion of awareness and prevention of both polyvictimization and overall exposure to violence in children and their families. We work to support the work of clinicians, advocates, communities, and caregivers to help raise awareness about the importance of children as the future and their right to a high quality of life. We have a variety of resources available to help caregivers, practitioners, and the public tackle the problem of violence at home, in schools, and the community. Just a few of these resources are:

The Safe Start Center Trauma Informed Care Tipsheets

These resources provides tips and insight for how parents & caregivers, child welfare staff, early childhood providers, men & fathers, domestic violence and homeless shelters, teachers, and agencies working with immigrant families can identify and care for children and youth exposed to a single or multiple types of violence.

Resources for Families and Caregivers

This page also gives a variety of online resources and websites that can help parents and caregivers better understand their children, their mental health, and how to help them cope with any new situations they might face.

Online Resources for Teens and Young Adults

The above page is targeted toward youth, providing online resources and books that raise awareness about the dangers of violence and tips for safety in school or in dating.

So, today on Universal Children’s Day, we need to remember each child across our nation who is exposed to hurt and violence. So please join us at the Safe Start Center by renewing the commitment to working to ensure that all children have the chance grow up safely and without fear.

Photo Credits:

30937aza3qkjeac Michal Marcol.jpg

5513436ygksa7y5 SteveMiles.jpg

Flowergirl earlyadvantage.jpg

Sad child2 Stuart Miles.jpg

Sad child Arvid Balaraman.jpg

Can war cost a child’s health?

War is a costly thing. I think most of us know how badly exposure to the violence of war affects our service men and women and the trauma they have to deal with once returning home. What’s less known is how badly the exposure hurts those who are left behind. Each year, 2 million U.S. children have at least one parent deployed in the military. Sometimes those children don’t even get to meet that parent right away, or sometimes not at all. We are just now learning how detrimental that deployment is for those children as they grow up.

A new study from the University of Washington suggests a startling picture. An article from The News Tribune shares that the “new study suggests that when parents are deployed in the military, their children are more than twice as likely to carry a weapon, join a gang or be involved in fights.”

The outcomes from this study indicate a connection to the problem of secondary violence exposure in children. Secondary exposure to violence includes witnessing the violence or hearing about a violent act against a family member.  The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence finds that children “suffer from difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression, and aggression and conduct problems. They may be more prone to dating violence, delinquency, further victimization, and involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems” (p. 2).  This supports the new study and that boys and girls alike are affected by the departure of their parents.

The most important thing to remember is that children can be more affected than we think, because the study shows that “according to the findings, 8th grade boys who had at least a deployed parent were at a 1.77 higher risk of physical fighting and 2.14 higher odds of gang membership while girls in 8th grade with at least one parent in the military were at twice the risk of carrying a weapon.” So, health professionals and caregivers must watch for the signs of distress in children and stop them before they start.

Below are some resources to help get families and practitioners started:

  1. Safe Start Center Families and Caregivers Online Resources
  2. Military Children and Family Resource Page
  3. Resources Especially for Military Families

“It takes a community”


It Takes a Community

By: Safe Start Center

Over the past month, we’ve highlighted what bullying means, heard the stories of countless people, covered what others are saying about it, and provided ways practitioners, teachers, and parents can help. In this, our last post, we would like to talk about the common wisdom, “it takes a community.” As can be seen by the variety of topics we covered this month, the effort to end bullying must a combined effort, everyone working TOGETHER.

In order for you to take action, look into what your state and local laws are about bullying. Many states, such as Connecticut and New Jersey, are not only creating new laws to increase enforcement but are also instituting their own Bully Awareness campaigns and curriculums to equip their schools to deal with the growing problem. Likewise, school administrators and teachers must first take part by enforcing these policies through role modeling and encouragement, and ask the same of their students. Second, they must become aware of the signs and symptoms of bullying and seek to eliminate them on the spot. This could include knowing the “hot spots” around the school and posting teachers in them during break times.

However, bullying doesn’t just happen in school – it happens in parks, in malls, and now on the Internet – any and everywhere there are children and youth. This means that parents must also be vigilant in helping their children cope and deal with bullying under a variety of circumstances. Parents also need to be aware of and take responsibility for their children’s actions when they are the “bullies.” Awareness is the first step, and like teachers, parents need to be both role models and to teach their kids to respect themselves and others.

Most importantly, putting an end to bullying is about equipping children to deal with problems when they arise by creating safe and encouraging environments for them at home, in school, and their communities. It is also about empowering them to confront or respond to it in their own individual ways. We’ve seen this happen because of the kids that have started support groups, awareness events, held town halls, and supported their classmates who have been bullied. When students feel safe in being who they are and learn to deal with others in a respectful way, that’s when bullying will really begin to stop. And this is what we must do – work for and with children to become the best they can be.

The Safe Start Center, along with many other partners in the field, will continue to call attention to the problem of bullying. For decades, there have been ebbs and flows in bullying awareness, but today there is a new and more dangerous tool for bullies – the Internet. But as we have seen this month, the Internet can also be used for good to help address bullying, raise awareness, and showcase the different gifts and skills of those who seek to lend their voice to the movement. Each of us – policymakers, teachers, parents, students – need to take a stand at every level and across sectors; to empowering students to start legislative campaigns, PSAs, stories, documentaries, dances; to be innovative and work together to address bullying and help those involved.

Writer Charlzetta Drive said it well. “Let’s teach our children that different is not a bad word, this will help them understand first they don’t have to change for anyone and second no one has to change for them. Being comfortable in his or her own skin, children are less likely to submit to major transgressions due to peer pressure. Different does not mean alone, bringing our differences together makes for a huge palate of enriching colors.”

Thanks so much for all of you who have followed us throughout this month as well as all those who have conducted their own campaigns, hosted events, made videos, wrote articles and many other things to raise awareness and stop bullying!


Anti-bullying Efforts Target Parents, Educators






Check out the newest Safe Start Center posting in support of National Bullying Prevention Month!

Bullying Awareness, it’s time to fight back!

Teasing, pushing, isolation, fear, misunderstanding, intimidation, and sadness – what do all these words have in common? The source – each of these words relates to bullying.

Picture this scene from Unmaking a Bully, “Russell rips the paper out of the boy’s hand and wads it up. He kicks a boy as he’s tying his shoelaces, knocking him over. He steals milk from classmates at lunch. Although this Russell is fictional, he is a bully, as old-fashioned as he is modern. His type has been around forever making fun of kids, calling names, intimidating, punching.”

Most of us know the term bullying, and even think we’ve been a victim at some point or another, but what we may not realize is that bullying can extend beyond the schoolyard scenario from above. The full truth is harder to understand, first, that this is a very old problem that typically involves direct acts of cruelty or domination of one person to another. Second, that bullying is both a direct act of violence and also an indirect form through its consequences. Third, it happens everywhere, including at home, in church, and in the neighborhood. Fourth, and most important, is that the consequences of bullying affect children and families everywhere.

Some of these effects can be seen through school attendance, just recently, Stomp Out Bullying reported that “as many as 160,000 students stay home on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied.” Another story involves a little girl so scared of being bullied that she had plastic surgery to avoid the experience. The truth is that no matter where or when bullying happens, it creates an environment of fear, distress, and negativity for anyone exposed. This negative environment can have lasting, long-term effects on children even into adulthood, lead to suicide, and a continued cycle of violence.

Bullying is an epidemic, and to fight back October is named National Bully Prevention Awareness Month, and October 3, 2011, National Bully Prevention Awareness Day, will kick off activities for the month. The goal of awareness month is to show the severity of bullying, and that it is important to take it seriously.

So, each week this month, follow our blog for new stories and resources about bullying and prevention. Also, check out the Safe Start Center website  for an introduction to Awareness Month, interviews with experts on the subject, and more bullying statistics.

You can also take a look at the following information and resources on bullying just to get yourself started.

CDC Anti-Bullying

National Centre Against Bullying

Resource Pages

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