Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Protects Teens?

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

When we hear "child abuse", we normally associate it with young children. However, there is a large group of kids that is mostly ignored who endure many kinds of abuse from family members, peers, institutions, churches, and communities. Teens continue to be left out of the child abuse discussion; and yet, 95% of the teens who come to Promise House have experienced some form of abuse....recently....not just when they were young. Abuses such as: being hit or slapped by a parent repeatedly; sexual assault by a parent, step-parent, family acquaintance, or peer; being kicked out of their home because they are gay or lesbian, or pregnant, or are old enough to "fend for themselves"; being "pimped out" by parents or other adults; living with drug addicted adults; being used as "drug runners".....the list goes on and on.

Why does concern for kids stop at age 13? Where are the systems to protect these young people? Child Protective Services rarely rates an abuse call about a teen as Priority 1--partly due to the overwhelming number of abuse cases, period. I guess they figure teens have a better chance of saving themselves than does a child. BUT, and this is a BIG but.....that is rarely the case. Very few teens are actually able to escape an abusive situation on their own---think about it---where are they going to go, besides the street??

I've said it many times....just because teens have grown-up doesn't mean they are grown up. They still love getting stuffed animals when they come here; love being read to, getting their hair brushed, doing "make believe" nails and hair, playing silly games. They still cry at night, are still scared of the dark, still have bad dreams. They are kids. Yes, they are big....sometimes REALLY big....but they are need of protection.

Please remember them in the discussions about child abuse this month. And, please remember, they need our protection EVERY month, not just in Child Abuse Prevention Month.