Lloydminster Sexual Assault Services is trying to give people the tools to recognize and help children being abused in the community this month.
October marks Child Abuse Prevention Month across Canada. During the month, many Child Advocacy Centres work together and individually in their communities to not only raise awareness of child abuse but also the roles communities can play in keeping children safe.
Director of Advocacy & Engagement for the LSAS Little Bear Child & Youth Advocacy Centre Tammy-Lynn Adamson explains the discussion around child abuse can often be a difficult one, but Child Abuse Prevention Month can help people understand their duty to report suspected child abuse.
“It’s something we kind of, maybe sometimes, don’t want to believe happens. So it’s important that we start talking about it and the impacts [of] it. It’s an opportunity to give child and youth support, it’s a place to provide a space where every child’s voice is heard, because in reality, if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t have education about it, it could be a child’s or youth’s life that depends on it.”
Adamson explains that there are signs to watch for if a child is being abused, and while they aren’t necessarily confirmation of abuse, these signs in multiples and repeated incidents can be a warning. These can include:
- Sudden changes in behaviour or performance.
- A drastic change of appearance.
- Sexual knowledge or behaviour beyond their stage of development.
- Missing school/decline in school performance.
- Not wanting to go home or running away.
- Always hungry, sick or not suitably dressed for the conditions.
- Distressed around, or, excessively seeks time with a particular adult.
- Extreme behavioural reactions such as aggression, withdrawal or depression.
- Unexplained physical symptoms/injuries that don’t match the child’s explanation.
Child Abuse Prevention Month also calls attention and support to community recourses helping children going through abuse, with eight Child Advocacy Centres across Alberta.
One of these in the Lloydminster area is the LSAS Little Bear Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, which began operations last year. The centre is a “centralized, single location” which helps support children and families as they navigate reporting, investigations of abuse, neglect and court progression.
This centre, which is nature-themed, seeks to serve as a place where children can feel calm and supported. It contains a toy room and conference space, as well as digital and audio recording equipment. The centre also employs trained advocates to help the children feel safe as they meet with RCMP officers, crown prosecutors or during forensic investigation, for example.
Adamson says children who have gone through the program have reported back that they feel less intimidated or scared through the entire reporting process.
“Children, when they’re coming to the Little Bear Child & Youth Advocacy Centre are dealing with some very adult situations, they’re dealing with investigations, interviewing. So the children and youth are supported in such a manner so that it maintains the child and youth-friendly environment.”
People are also encouraged to wear blue on October 24th in solidarity with people who have been impacted by child abuse. This initiative was originally started by Norfolk, Virginia resident Bonnie Finney as a memorial for her 3-year-old grandson Michael Wayne “Bubba” Dickenson, who died as the result of child abuse.
People who believe a child is the victim of abuse can find contact details for the Little Bear Child & Youth Advocacy Centre on the LSAS Website.