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Child Abuse: 'What Can I Do About This?'

By Camila Madero / Special to The Children's Movement

In this social media age, we are being inundated with causes to care about and issues to be outraged over, from refugee crises to immigration policy to global warming to healthcare. We are often left with a helpless feeling, asking ourselves "What can I do about this?" We sign petitions, protest, talk to our friends and share articles on Facebook in the effort to leave a better world for our children.

If only protecting our children would be so simple.

It is important for us to recognize the victims of child abuse who suffer silently in plain sight. As national Child Abuse Prevention Month begins, I urge Floridians to look out for the most vulnerable members of our society. Every day we can do something to bring awareness to this cause and make a child's life better.

Participating in the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign in one of those somethings. It provides each of us with an opportunity to educate the public about the need for prevention, to support child- and family-friendly policies and to volunteer in our communities or at the national level.

The pinwheel became a national symbol for child abuse prevention in 2008; it embodies childlike whimsy, energetic notions and the blissful image that comes to mind when we think of children.

Sadly, this is not a reality for hundreds of thousands of children. Child abuse takes many forms: physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect or exploitation. Many children growing up in those environments may be unaware that they are victims. And if they become parents themselves, they may mimic the abusive environment they grew up in, creating a vicious cycle of abuse.

It has been my experience that some survivors tend to refuse a "victim" label and deny they were abused as a child, often being so accustomed to the silence and isolation they grew up in that it seems impossible to talk openly about their experiences. It is imperative that survivors understand that they were not at fault, and that nothing they may have done excuses any form of abuse by their caregivers or others. The culture of silence surrounding this issue only hinders the progress we've made over the years. Now, it is our responsibility to talk about it openly and honestly, diminishing the stigma around the word "victim."

Child abuse is an ugly topic. I know that I am not alone in wishing it wasn't a problem, but it is and we must do everything in our power to solve it. It is through campaigns such as Pinwheels for Prevention that we can find hope and power in numbers. It allows us to find solidarity with others and provide opportunities to get involved, whether it is through volunteering, donating, babysitting or contacting local legislators.

Again I urge you to take time, not only in April but every day, to recognize the importance of supporting our youth when it comes to preventing child abuse. The way we treat our children is not only reflective of our character, but it will inevitably shape the world we leave for future generations.

Next time you find yourself asking "What can I do about this," please visit the Florida Pinwheels for Prevention campaign website or the national website.

Camila Madero is a senior majoring in linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Florida. This year, she is volunteering with The Children's Movement on a number of projects, including writing blogs.