On March 7th, 2012, I attended the “Speaking of Children” training by Project Harmony of Omaha, Nebraska. This is the second time I have had the fortune of attending this annual training. I was able to attend on behalf of O’Neill Family Preservation Team (Thank you). This year my morning session was instructed by Suzanna Tiapula. Mrs. Tiapula is the Director of NDAA’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse. She coordinates and manages activities and operations of the center and staff. Ms. Tiapula trains child abuse professionals across the country on the investigation and prosecution of child maltreatment and exploitation. This session was engaging! We talked about several Nebraska cases; the information was shocking and hard to listen to but true. It really broadened the scope of abuse that our children could be suffering from silently if not investigated properly.
The featured lunch speaker was Sugar Ray Lenord, Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion and Child Abuse survivor. His words carried a powerful message that we as a society need to create an environment where children feel safe to disclose abuse. The staggering statistic is that only 8% of children disclose sexual abuse. What can we do about this? I as a person, who frequently comes in contact with middle school age children, will be more conscious of my attitude. I want to express that if a child were to confide in me about abuse, I would believe them. I would take care to insure that they are comfortable with reporting to the proper agencies.
Finally my afternoon session was spent with Dr. Jill Murray. She has become the leading expert on the subject of teen dating abuse in the U.S. and Canada. She has appeared on more than 350 television shows—including twice on Oprah, 20/20, Montel, Dr. Phil, Good Morning America, and several CNN shows—speaking as the guest expert in the field, as well as more than 300 radio talk shows. She has been interviewed by more than 250 newspapers and national magazines.
I received great information to pass on to teens in abusive relationships. As with anything there is no cure all, but as an advocate I can plant a seed of what love is. Dr. Jill puts it that Love is a behavior. It is easy to remind someone in an abusive relationship, “hey is that a loving behavior”? She gave us lots of good information to use and questions to ask, such as do you cry often in your current relationship? If so, you are in abusive relationship. If you are ever afraid to share information about your day with your partner you are in an abusive relationship.
Overall the training was excellent and I learned a lot of great information. Unfortunately the content is upsetting but real. Our kids are suffering abuse. We owe it to ourselves to look for the warning signs and report. Reporting is not being a busy body or getting an innocent person in trouble. It is keeping a child safe by sending someone over to investigate your report. If there is no crime being committed, great, but you have done your part to keep a child safe.
Written by Amanda Wallace