Can Cartoon Characters Stop Child Abuse?

December 7, 2010

This is what Stephanie Hallett of Ms. Magazine asks. She is talking about a recent Facebook campaign to get people to change their avatars to cartoon characters in hopes of increasing awareness about child abuse. Ms. Hallett questions what effect this campaign will have on stopping child abuse. But I would argue that you can’t stop child abuse. Predators are out there. They will always be out there. Unless we can come up with some type of Minority Report technology, there is no way we can prevent predators from abusing children. That is the sad truth. But we can make people more aware. We can try to figure out what conditions lead to this horrible crime.

Ms. Hallett goes on to criticize the campaign for lacking substance. She criticizes the campaign for not creating “meaningful action”. I think Ms. Hallett has missed the point of raising awareness. Whether it be for breast cancer or child abuse, raising awareness is never meant to be a solution. It’s meant to be a discussion. In my opinion, the use of cartoon characters is kind of brilliant. Because it puts a friendly/familiar face to a god-awful topic that most people don’t want to talk about.

But in order for us to move towards a meaningful solution, we need to move beyond critiques of awareness campaigns. We need to agree that any campaign that creates awareness is a good campaign. We need to move onto more meaningful discussions about child abuse- What are the conditions that cause a person to abuse a child? How can we protect children from predators?  What are some factors that increase the likelihood of child abuse? Are you aware that children with borderline personality disorder are more likely to be abused? Did you know that people who were abused as children are more likely to become abusers?

And let’s not forget that child abuse is not just about sexual assault. There are a myriad of ways a child can be abused. If you are a borderline, you may be familiar with some of these abuses- neglect, fighting amongst parents, resentment/regret of children, abandonment, absence, silent treatment, mental abuse, verbal abuse,  alcoholism, etc… All of these can contribute to depression and trauma in children. And this can lead to that child becoming an adult who is abusive to his/her partner and children.

Maybe Ms Magazine should spend less time critiquing other people’s efforts/critiquing society and more time contributing to more “meaningful” discussions such as- How do we encourage those who have been abused as children to seek help so that the cycle of abuse stops with them and is not passed onto others?

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