Can you identify the signs?

by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- In 1983, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since then, a number of programs and preventative trainings have come to the forefront of many Americans minds and organizations.

The Department of Defense theme for April 2018 is “Strong Communities Strengthen Families.” The theme aligns perfectly with Kadena Family Advocacy’s views on child safety and emphasizes how the community plays a vital role in a child’s life.

“It takes a community to raise a child,” said Capt Cristina Benitez, 18th Medical Group Chief of Family Advocacy. “As a community, we need to work together to prevent child abuse.”

The primary source for services for child or domestic abuse for Air Force and Army families on Okinawa is the Kadena Family Advocacy office. Approximately 20,000 beneficiaries are served between Air Force and Army personnel. The office is especially busy this month in getting the word out about child abuse prevention and the warning signs to look out for.

Signs of child abuse include but are not limited to: physical (bruising and red marks), emotional (fearing going home or expressing fear of caretakers), sexual abuse, as well as neglect (being hungry or frequently wearing dirty or unkempt clothes). The signs could show up individually or combined depending on the severity of the abuse.

“Our primary mission is to educate people and let them know what the resources for help are before a crisis occurs in the home,” Benitez said.

“It’s harder for children to advocate for themselves, and they may not be able to reach out for help.”

While it takes a community effort to identify the signs of abuse, Family Advocacy doesn’t expect everyone to be able to identify every sign – sometimes educating oneself is the best course of action.

Family Advocacy offers many services including stress and anger management classes, new parent classes such as Mom & Dad’s bootcamp, vouchers for “Give Parents a Break,” home visitation for families with children 3 and under by licensed nurses and many other resources to help parents learn how to handle the difficulties of raising a child.

“Absolutely every step of the way, if there’s something you’re curious about – please reach out and ask,” said Phillip Trexel, 18th MDG Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate. “We’re always trying to get people involved and educate the community.”

For more information, contact the Family Advocacy office at 634-0433.

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