Reunion 4 Founder's Corner

BY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN

Welcome to our fourth edition of Reunion. In this issue, we turn our attention to child abuse and neglect, and our collective efforts to heal, educate and empower future generations. As the mother of three kids, this issue is near and dear to my heart. And I think it will touch the heart of anyone who has ever looked at a child and thought, “I want nothing but the best for you.”

The unfortunate reality is that each year, hundreds of thousands of children are abused and neglected. In most cases, the perpetrator is someone close to them. Each day in the United States, more than four children die as a result of abuse and neglect. More than three-quarters of these children are under the age of five. More than 40 percent of young victims won’t live to see their first birthday. And over 15 million children witness violence and abuse in their homes each year.

Those who do survive the abuse are likely to experience lasting effects. Research has found that abused and neglected children are at least 25 percent more likely to experience problems including delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use and mental health issues.

At Joyful Heart, we believe that through intervention and holistic support services, education and awareness, community engagement and public-private partnerships, we can end the cycle of violence and abuse.

Through our collective participation in research studies and public awareness campaigns, Joyful Heart has long been involved in spreading awareness about the signs of child abuse and neglect, and in fostering public dialogue and engagement with this issue.

I will never forget the story that catalyzed my activism around this issue.

In January 2006, a 7-year-old girl named Nixzmary Brown was beaten to death in her home in Brooklyn, New York. She weighed just 36 pounds. She had missed weeks of school in the months leading up to her death. She often had cuts and bruises and vague explanations—another fall, another accident. Home was an unspeakable horror for Nixzmary—but somehow, so many caring adults in her community missed or ignored the signs of her abuse.

In response, I became the face of an extensive public awareness campaign launched by Safe Horizon in March 2006, which proclaimed as its rallying cry: Turn Your Outrage and Grief into Action.

In 2008, Joyful Heart evolved its mission to include child abuse and neglect to reflect our growing education and awareness work in this area. Later that year, we partnered with Safe Horizon and Redbook magazine on a special child abuse awareness issue. Joyful Heart also joined Hope Shining, a national initiative to increase awareness, prevention and support services for children, families and communities affected by violence and abuse.

Most recently, we joined in a groundbreaking partnership with the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund in 2010 to study the feasibility of a comprehensive child abuse awareness campaign in the state of Hawai‘i—Joyful Heart’s birthplace. Through this partnership, Joyful Heart commissioned research demonstrating the prevalence of child abuse in Hawai‘i, and earlier this year, we launched the culmination of those efforts: the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign. It is the most comprehensive child abuse prevention and public awareness campaign in the history of the state of Hawai‘i.

Turning our attention and resources to this issue has been hugely rewarding. Through campaigns like One Strong ‘Ohana, we are seeing that when communities get involved, they can help to nurture and strengthen families and keep our children safe. At Joyful Heart, we believe child abuse is preventable, and that the best hope we have of realizing our vision of ending violence and abuse is to break the cycle before it begins.

I invite all of you to explore the pages of this magazine, learn more about this important issue and then join me in our work to protect the most precious resource we have—our children.

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