Activism beyond an elementary gesture



Column by Fatimah Shalash. E-mail [email protected].

In the campaign to fight child abuse, Facebook users have spread the word to change their profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood.

The goal was to not see a human face on Facebook until Monday, Dec. 6. After talking to a friend who was similarly perplexed at what change this may make, I immediately did a Google search and found the ultimate intent was to cause an invasion of memories to bring awareness of ending violence against children.

While I believe there are good intentions behind this campaign, the activist in me says change needs to occur beyond pictures. After further browsing and noticing many who now proudly displayed cartoons did not change their status as well, I sat back and suddenly became overwhelmed.

Flooded with memories of trying to bring awareness and change to causes I am passionate about, I recalled the internal battle I had with myself and others. I was torn with the thought that my actions weren’t making tangible change and the belief that educating at least one person and bringing truth to light was well worth my efforts.

As someone who has had to report several cases of child abuse, I have faced a multitude of complicated emotions: anger at the perpetrator, sadness for the child, a fierce protectiveness and sense of powerlessness. Though deep down I knew I did all that I could, I wanted to have done a lot more.

So I write this, not to poke fun of those who changed their profile pictures, but rather to add a suggestion.

Add a caption underneath your picture that includes the following 10 signs of child abuse: 1. Unexplained injuries, 2. Changes in behavior, 3. Returning to earlier behaviors (shown in earlier ages), 4. Fear of going home, 5. Changes in eating, 6. Changes in sleeping, 7. Changes in school performance and attendance, 8. Lack of personal care or hygiene, 9. Risk-taking behaviors, and 10. Inappropriate sexual behaviors.

Some of these signs may be more striking than others, but follow your instincts. Child abuse can occur in any context, regardless of race, class or ethnicity. In fact, in 2008, U.S. Department of Halth and Human services reported that out of the 772,000 children determined to be victims of abuse or neglect, parents (acting alone or with another person) were responsible for 71 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities.

Also, keep in mind that abuse goes beyond physical harm and can be categorized in four types: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional maltreatment. If you suspect that a child has been abused, keep calm, tell the child you believe them, show concern, and most importantly, take action.

Remember, you do not need proof to report.  Just suspicion of abuse is enough to take action. In Kentucky, it is required by law KRS 620.030 for all persons to report spouse abuse, child abuse and abuse of those adults unable to protect themselves (e.g. the elderly).

As you recall your favorite childhood cartoons (or current favorites), remember you can be one call away from helping save a child’s life.

The Child/Adult Abuse Hotline can be reached at 1-800-752-6200.