I am a mother and now a grandmother. Children have been and always will be an important part of my life. They are treasures.
A mother lives very closely to the innocence of each child with his or her thoughts, words, and actions. In this role I treasure I am filled with wonder as each child encounters a world I’ve grown used to … and reveals whole vistas every single day.
Children just amaze me, and I smile at all they have to offer. They warm my heart on a cold day just gathering for hot cocoa or a cuddle. When one of my grandchildren hugs me when I’m down my heart is uplifted and my whole viewpoint can change. Truly, children reflect the beauty of God in my day—in all our days. They are treasures from Him to us all.
For this reason, I am writing this article.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This cause is very important. It is critical for all of us. No child should ever be hurt, not physically, or mentally, or sexually, or emotionally. Children are miracles from God. To leave them unprotected, or worse to harm any one of them, is an affront to Him.
Children are born in innocence and through love. And they rely on us, as trusted adults, to lead them, guide them, scold them, help them—all in love, all in safety. We are there to remain beside them as they learn and grow each day. We are commissioned, really, to raise them physically, emotionally, and spiritually so they can be knowledgeable, compassionate and independent individuals ready to face the future before them.
Child abuse devastates children, and it also destroys our roles as protectors. It is our job as adults to make sure they are protected in every way we can. Abuse of any kind, from any adult, breaks a child’s ability to trust not only the abuser but also anyone else who might offer care or protection. It leaves a child alone, isolated, to imagine he or she is the damaged one. Self-esteem, confidence, trust, hope… these are all stolen from child victims and make growing into confident and independent adults very hard. Sometimes, impossible. And, too often these stories end in broken lives or even suicide.
Our society today, especially our Catholic churches and schools, are prepared and educated on such abuse. Training and skills in the dioceses of the United States help everyone to be aware of signs of abuse and to know how to respond. Children today are safer and more able to rely on caring adults who have learned how to speak about abuse and empower children to seek help without becoming frightened. There is still much work to be done.
The progress means a lot to me, because I am a victim of child abuse by a parent and then by clergy. And, the aftereffects, as an adult, remain trying and troubling. The road to healing is long and painful. With trusted individuals who share this journey with me, I am recovering by relying on their compassion and support. They help me know I am not all alone and that I can continue to make progress with their support. But this is not a fate I would want any child to face. This is not a challenge any adult should have to bear because of abuse when they were young.
My request of you, my reader, is this: If you know of a child being abused, be their angel and take all due steps to ensure they are removed from the danger, but don’t stop there. They will have suffered a terrible loss of a trusted adult who betrayed their trust. They will be confused and maybe withdraw. Please, take time to find a way to support and guide them in the direction of finding the love and empathy they need to free their fearful heart of abuse and fill it with love and hope. Don’t let them wait until they are older.
No child should have to suffer abuse of any kind. Let’s all work together to live this out and continue finding ways to help our children. Children are God’s miracles, and they are our treasures. We are all made in God’s love and in God’s image; let’s treat children that way until they can take that into their hearts and grow in confidence, faith and love.
Sometimes it doesn’t take a village. It takes a single, brave, and informed person to intervene on behalf of children who are essentially helpless until we help them. Our lives are meant to protect them, always. And to remind them that they are never alone.
Kathy O’Connell is a wife, mother, and grandmother who serves in her parish Ministry of Care. A Catholic survivor of clergy abuse, Kathy is also a co-founder of The Healing Voices Magazine, a regular contributor and its most reprinted author.