2003.2.5 – children first!

In recent weeks a new advertising campaign has been unveiled across the country. On my way home from visiting my family in Niagara Falls, I passed a billboard that struck me immediately. This isn’t like any other advocacy campaign over the years. It is heart wrenching and, in all likelihood, should be effective. The first billboard shows a closet door with a caption that reads, “A closet should only be a place to hang your coat.” The second shows a stovetop in the heated stage with a caption that reads, “A stove should only be a place to cook dinner.”

The sheer horror of these ads is what makes them honourable. Leaving the rest to the imagination is the best way to make people feel. Without a distinctive point, the ads reach out to everyone in a way that just showing violence cannot.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, these are new ad council ads sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse America, an organization that works to lower the cases of child abuse and neglect across the country. I have to admit that child abuse ads on television, radio and billboards have always been highly effective for me, but this has to be the most striking campaign. Unlike the campaigns to curb drug use and smoking, this campaign really reaches everyone. It grabs you by the throat and makes you realize how awful the act of abuse is. It makes you want to give of yourself immediately.

I was lucky enough to live through a wonderful and happy childhood. I didn’t have to worry about parents who were abusive or uncles that were “too close for comfort”. Once, when I didn’t get my way, I threatened my mother with a call to the child abuse hotline and she looked at me with that disapproving look saying, “Honey, you have no idea what child abuse is!” She was right, I didn’t. At the time I was angry because I wanted something I couldn’t have, but that could never be construed as abuse or neglect. After speaking to people in college that were abused and/or neglected, I understood how frivolous my younger comments had been.

At this point I realized that listening was the only thing I could do and it helped more than any words that I could utter. Without experiencing abuse myself it was impossible for me to ever truly understand the hurt and anguish involved, but being there to vent to was the best thing I could have done. The cycle repeated for one of my friends as she went from an abusive father, to an abusive husband, to an abusive boyfriend. People may argue that it is the fault of the woman, but you must first realize that abused women start out as abused children a majority of the time. They don’t choose to be abused, abuse chooses them.

The only way to stop these cycles of hatred and anger is to advocate for children. Start from the beginning. Making strong kids will make strong adults. With these new ad campaigns and more involvement in children’s organizations, we can make a difference. There is certainly a long road ahead, but continuing down it is the only option available.

Peace –

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