April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month. Each day, thousands upon thousands of children are suffering from some kind of abuse. Whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or sexual, these children are suffering in ways that not even some adults can fathom.
Often times we overlook the signs of children that are suffering abuse because many of our thoughts about abuse are limited to what we can see what our eyes alone. There are many children that are suffering in silence, with no one the wiser about the horrendous plight their young lives are in.
Child abuse is a subject that is close to my heart. It reaches a part of me that I do not always speak on, but can identify with. It has affected my life in such away, that everything I do in lifeóin my career, my writing, my ministryóat some point addresses the issue of abuse.
As a child, I suffered physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse. My life has not been a bed of roses; which I am certain many can attest to also. I hid well what was happening to me. I was not a child that spoke or shared what was going on. My teachers never suspected anything was wrong. I was a straight A, model student. I excelled in my academics and even friendships. I made friends rather easily. Yet, I was private. I didnít have many friends come to my home. I didnít have birthday parties and sleepovers. But I was that friend that you could talk to and share your deepest secrets with, although I did not share mine.
I was a magnet for those who were hurting or needed encouragement. I helped many a personís secrets and helped through their difficult times while I kept mine to myself. I wanted to share I wanted to open up, but I never felt safe. It was not until I went away to college that I was free. I was free to share my story. To tell my truth. And in doing so, it helped me to help even more people; more children in ways I would not have thought.
Right now, as you are reading this article, there is a child that is being abused in some kind of way. They may never speak on it. They may never find someone that they can trust to pour their heart and soul to. And for them, it is the scariest and loneliest place to be; with no knowledge of if what they are experiencing right now will ever come to an end.
These, my dear friends, are the children that we need to reach and to look out for. These are the children that are crying silently and slipping through the cracks because no one knows their secret. Yes. There are children that we can immediately see are being abused. Yet, it is those children that hold their secret close to their heart that we must also reach and help.
One of the things I have learned over the years in working with children, and recognizing the hidden signs (signs that I had shown in my own life) is to have an open heart and mind. To listen more and talk and judge less. Every child that acts out; every quiet child; every private child; every overly happy child; are not always what they appear to be.
We have to learn to listen with our heart. To, be observant and to be present and available. And to be willing to step up and step in and do something. Unlike adults, children are dependent upon adults to do what is right for them. To, make those difficult choices that will help them to have a life that is safe.
Whether it is physical, emotional, sexual abuse; there is a need for healing, counseling, and a safe environment for them to express themselves and their anger without feeling like they will be reprimanded or blamed for what happened to them. Safe environments are necessary to helping children of abuse.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse of any kind, seek out help immediately. One word; one act of kindness and intervention can save a childís life.
*Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline*