Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why It's Important

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). October is also Down syndrome Awareness Month. Providing Awareness of both DV and Ds is of great importance to me both personally and professionally. Over the month you've read about all kinds of things. Most were happy expressions of joy. Others were not.

Maybe you wondered why I bother posting such depressing statistics. I know that I am blessed to have a wonderful husband and extended family. I've developed some amazing friendships since Sophie entered my world and have grown closer to old friends. My support system is strong. My access to Early Intervention is good. My love for my daughter is deep.

Sadly, not all parents who have children with special needs have as many resources. Many struggle through each day in ways I cannot imagine. Even more tragic is the fact that much of the abuse of children with special needs is sustained by the hand of a parent or caregiver. Imagine, if you will, a home where the mother experiences domestic violence. Imagine then what the life of a child with special needs is like as they witness this abuse or are directly abused. These families are even more isolated and at more risk for serious trauma and injury.

I have also read horrible stories of abuse by the hands of educators or caregivers. Teachers or aids who "teach a little girl a lesson" by slapping her in the face after the child has acted out. Others who have pulled another little girl's hair to see if she likes how it feels. The fact is that there are sick people in this world. We need to be vigilant with all of our kids, but especially our kids with special needs who may be targeted by sickos who see them as particularly vulnerable, unable to articulate their abuse, or fight back.

As I slowly emerge from the beginning of my journey with Sophie, I see more and more how important it is to reach out and help others. It's important to stand up and speak out against cruelty and abuse. In my own small way I have tried to extend a welcome to new parents on downsyn. I joined the Rally for Respect when the Ban the "R" Word Campaign really kicked off. I hope to do more as I gather my strength. Blogging about daily life, normal daily life, filled with highs and lows and plenty of pictures of my family gives others who are brand new or struggling on this path a glimmer of hope that it can and will be ok. Reading others' blogs has given me more perspective, encouragement, knowledge, strength, laughter and tears than I could have ever imagined.

So, as 31 for 21 draws to an exhausting close, I thank all who have participated in sharing their little unique worlds with us all and by doing so, made our worlds a little smaller and more beautiful.

I'll leave you with one last set of stats taken from The ARC:

- 1 in 3 children with disabilities are victims of some form of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000).

- Individuals with developmental disabilities are 4 to 10 more times more likely to be victims of a crime than people without disabilities (Sobsey, et al., 1995).

- Children with developmental disabilities are at twice the risk of physical and sexual abuse compared to children without disabilities (Crosse et. al., 1993).

For more information or to get help, please contact:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE
The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE

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