Child Abuse Prevention Month: Do your part to stop the cycle

by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour, Marine Corps Installations Pacific
Stripes Okinawa

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – Child abuse is an ongoing battle everyone must help fight so children can grow up healthy, happy and safe.

Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Marine Corps Installations Pacific Public Affairs sat down with Esperanza Bunn, a prevention and education specialist with Marine Corps Community Services’ Family Advocacy Program, and Margaret Zohni, the Family Advocacy Program Director of Okinawa, Japan to learn more about child abuse, spot the signs, and prevent it.

Q. What is child abuse?

ZOHNI. Child abuse is any type of physical, emotional and sexual or neglectful actions or omissions on the part of a child’s caregiver.

Q. Whose responsibility is it to look for signs of child abuse?

BUNN. It is everybody’s responsibility and every Marine is a mandated reporter. Even if there is only a suspicion of abuse, it needs to be reported within 24 hours.

Q. What are the different signs of child abuse?

ZOHNI. Each child reacts differently, but there are always signs. Examples of signs of a child being neglected, is having poor hygiene, hording food or wearing clothes that are not appropriate for the weather. Physically abused children could be wearing winter clothes to cover marks, they may be bullies, or flinch at loud noises. Children can withdraw into themselves or they could start acting out.

Q. How should a person proceed if abuse is suspected?

BUNN. If someone suspects child abuse, they need to call the Family Advocacy Program or Provost Marshal’s Office. There is also a victim hotline they can call. It is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is 645-SAFE.

Q. How can the community work together to prevent child abuse?

BUNN. Be vigilant and look out for each other. Okinawa is safe but abuse

happens, even if it is unintentionally. The community needs to read and understand the youth supervision guidelines. Unsupervised children, children left alone in a car, or children underage at home alone, are all forms of neglect. It is better to err on the side of caution.

Q. Why is it important for children to be taught about child abuse and prevention?

ZOHNI. Children are more aware now then they have ever been. They know that they can live in a safe world and ask for help. We need to keep encouraging them because it is a great thing that children can speak out for themselves or a friend. By encouraging them to know, they can act.

Q. Why is it important for parents to listen to children expressing concern about abuse?

ZOHNI. A lot of times, peers will talk to peers. Children are more likely to talk to another child before they will talk to an adult. When this happens, a child goes home and then tells their parents. Most kids don’t make up things of this nature. If they haven’t experienced it before, or never really seen it, and they come home with a story, chances are there is truth to it.

For more information visit www.mccsokinawa.com or call Behavioral Health and Family Advocacy at 645-2915.

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