Letter: Promoting Safety of Children

To the Editor:

I recently was amazed by Oxbow High School eighth-graders who created and performed original art, music, songs and acts focused on issues of bullying, dating violence, domestic abuse and sexual assault. They performed it for themselves as a way to openly discuss frightening issues they all face. In fact, their courage and pride were evident as well as their compassion for each other. It is very difficult to broach these issues in a traditional classroom or group setting. (Just ask any middle and high school counselor.) Moreover, to feel the courage and admiration of your peers is, in fact, the best prevention for all types of abusive relationships. All students know that the best bully-proofing technique is to be part of a group, because bullies like to target loners.

Tracy Penfield is the person responsible for this artistic and therapeutic experience. She is the founder of SafeArt, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the transformative power of the arts to prevent and heal trauma. Programs like SafeArt are needed more than ever. Child maltreatment has steadily grown in the U.S. to the highest level of all industrialized nations. Child protective agencies provided services to 3.3 million children in 2012. Nearly five children die of abuse and neglect every day in America. Thirty percent of adults who were abused when they were children abuse their own children. It is well known to child psychologists like myself that many incidents of child abuse are unreported. Clearly there is a hidden epidemic of child maltreatment in America.

The first step to curbing child maltreatment is to remove the veil of secrecy that encourages perpetrators. I urge everyone interested in promoting the safety of children and adolescents to visit the SafeArt website (www.safeart.org).

Raymond J. Chin

Child Clinical Psychologist

East Thetford