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#ENDviolence Against Children – Listen UP! Speak OUT!

By Richard Webster

Last week, UNICEF launched a long-term ‘End Violence Against Children’ initiative (#ENDviolence), reminding all of us that millions of children around the world experience violence. Many children right here in Canada experience violence in their homes, schools, communities, and institutions. While the majority of violence against children remains hidden, it is happening every single day across this country – regardless of the social, cultural, or economic makeup of our communities. It’s time to make the invisible visible.

Several years ago, UNICEF Canada was involved in a study that asked Canadian children what they thought about the sources of, and responses to, violence in their lives. (This was part of a larger UN Study on Violence Against Children.) Our study reaffirmed that violence is preventable and, overwhelmingly, that only through listening to, and working with, children’s voices and initiatives that violence against children can be significantly reduced.

One child in the study said that “[n]obody ever thinks to ask the kids how we feel. Things that might not seem very important to you are very important to us. We should be allowed to express ourselves.” For example, when we listened to kids, we learned that they expect adults to play their proper roles to intervene in bullying – yet so many anti-bullying programs focus on what victims and bullies should do.

Not only must we listen to our communities’ children in our collective effort to end violence against children, we must do our part to prevent or stop violence in their lives. It’s a shared responsibility.

You may be asking yourself, ‘What can I do?’ Here are just a few examples of instances where you can help:

  • UNICEF reports that 35% of Canadian kids are bullied. That’s nearly 4 out of every 10 children in our society. Speak up – tell a parent, the principal, a coach, or Kids Help Phone.
  • About 84,000 Canadian kids are abused by family members every year. Be the one to show them kindness. Speak up if you suspect it - every Canadian has a legal duty to report it to their local child welfare agency.
  • Shine a light on online sexual exploitation of children. Report any child sexual images you may come across online to cybertip!ca.
  • ‘Sexting’ is a crime if the images are of people under 18, but most teens don’t know that. Tell them that sending or sharing sexual images of themselves or other kids hurts everybody. Speak up.  
  • Canada’s Premiers called for a national study on missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women. Speak up for them, too, and ask your MP to listen.

Sometimes we just need to know where to begin…

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and other social media (#ENDviolence). Listen up and speak out because when it comes to saving and protecting children, no child is too far. Even the ones here at home.

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