How many times in the past year have you read articles such as these in the news? They jump out and grab the readers, giving them a false sense of being knowledgeable about child abuse. Why a false sense? We only learn what the media decides and is able to tell us, and there are so many more cases of abuse that never make it to the media. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2014 there were 702,000 cases of child maltreatment, 1580 resulting in a child's death. Perhaps you should know more than you do.
Reporting on child abuse is challenging. Those who are tasked with protecting children are obligated not to breech confidentiality meant to protect caregivers, parents and, most importantly, children. In other words, they cannot speak about their cases. Hence, the news often reports only one side of the story, looks for "system" failures (which cannot be clarified due to confidentiality issues), or waits until the facts come out in a trial. In fact, according to a Berkeley Media Studies Group study done in 2011, "Child sexual abuse was most often covered when there was a criminal justice event related to the aftermath, such as an arrest or a trial (73%)." That is to say, 73% of articles in the study had a criminal justice "news hook." This is troubling because only a minute percentage of child sexual abuse cases ever lead to an arrest, so the story is really only a snippet of the big picture. In addition, this type of coverage puts the emphasis on the perpetrator rather than on the victims, their families, and the community as a whole. It is an opportunity missed.
The media can play a vital role by covering the issue of child abuse in a more proactive fashion. Because child abuse is so hidden, news reports are the only way many people learn of the abuse that silently surrounds them. This is exemplified by the media coverage of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The media reported, outrage ensued, and policies were changed.
But this, again, is after the fact. How can the media report on child abuse before it happens? How can we help them to do just that? As a media consumer you can:
Seek out information regarding child abuse laws and policies. Work to make them better.
Suggest editorial topics, write an op-ed piece or letter.
Create a program in your school or place of work where people can learn about how to prevent child abuse.
If you are an adult survivor and wish to tell your story, tell your story. Share what helped you and your ideas about prevention.
If you are a reporter, consider doing the following:
Provide resources regarding personal safety.
Report on those who are trying to prevent child abuse and how they are doing it.
Demand solutions from authorities and encourage civic action.
Research child protection policies at schools, places of worship and sports organizations.
Explore the cultural, political, economic and social aspects of child abuse (what causes abuse, what is the result of abuse).
Instead of focusing on the details of individual cases, delve into the societal and systemic issues that often allow these tragedies to occur.
Perhaps if we all make the effort to learn more now, there will be less to report on later.
Staff Spotlight Fifth in a Series
Stephanie Wolf, JD, PhD
Dr. Stephanie Wolf, The Tree House's Mental Health Director, is a licensed psychologist who earned her PhD in clinical psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She completed her internship at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center with rotations in the pediatric acute psychiatric unit, pediatric emergency room, cranio-facial clinic, pediatric general floor and pediatric intensive care unit. During her doctoral training, Dr. Wolf gained extensive therapy and assessment experience with her practicum placements at the Johns Hopkins Kennedy Krieger Family Center, working with children who experienced trauma, and at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center, working with adolescent female offenders. Additionally, Dr. Wolf holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Maryland School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in both Maryland and Washington DC.
When asked why she decided to work at The Tree House she replied, "I wanted to be able to help children and families in a profound way and the circus was not hiring."
Excitement is building for our Tree House Tour de Cookie!
Registrations are coming in at a quick clip and teams are forming fast,14 so far, but there's room for more!
Please register early. We are limiting the number of riders this year to 750, and don't want you to lose the opportunity to be part of this wonderful event! Do you need another reason to register early? To receive a t-shirt you must register by April 10th...and look at how beautiful it is! →
It looks like our cookie stands are nearly all claimed. If you would like to help a stand as an extra baker or would like to be on our back-up cookie stand list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and come to our cookie stand meeting on Wednesday, March 16th at 7pm at The Tree House (7300 Calhoun Place, Suite 600, Derwood, MD 20855). Let us know to expect you in that email you're sending us!
Don't ride a bike or bake? You can still be part of the event by having a booth at our community expo! For more information, click here.
And for the rest of you non-cyclists, we have a surprise for you, but we can't tell you yet. In early March we'll be announcing another addition to our event just for you!
For all the latest Tree House Tour de Cookie happenings follow our event on Facebook.
We want to thank Westat for riding along with us as a sponsor! It's not too late to join them as a sponsor. Click here for more information.
Help us spread the word about The Tree House. Forward this newsletter to a few friends!
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You can help us provide mental health, medical, victim advocacy and other services to abused and neglected children in Montgomery County. All it takes is a small donation.