Love In A Big World: #metoo

October 27th, 2017

Even though the first study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente from 1995-1997, ACEs did not gain widespread attention until 2012. Perhaps, it’s because the questions related to ACEs can make people uncomfortable. They uncover the hidden problems in families, such as verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, feeling unloved by family members, abuse suffered by mother, alcoholism, mental illness, lack of necessities, divorce, and neglect. Maybe, as a society, we were not ready to have the necessary conversations until now.

Over the past two years, ACEs have become a hot topic in education. The conversation centers around trauma-informed practice. How do we as consistent, caring adults in a child’s life respond to the violence they face?

When we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that kids must have their basic necessities before they can focus on learning. Many schools across the country have adopted free breakfast and lunch programs in order to fill the bellies of the one in five kids in the U.S. who are hungry each day. However, we cannot jump from providing meals to supporting a child through trauma. We must first build a bridge called relationship.

A connection with a child, especially one who has experienced great loss, may begin with a smile or high-five each morning. It may mean an invitation to help with a special job in the classroom. Or maybe it starts with intentional conversation during a dedicated learning time. Once a connection is created it needs to be nurtured with regular, positive interactions. It’s simple, but not always easy.

Relationships are the foundation for social and emotional learning as well as restorative practices, which can both be strategies for trauma-informed schools, churches, families — communities.

Since October 16, 2017, #metoo, a hashtag used by women and men to declare that they were a victim of sexual harassment or assault and to amplify the prevalence of these problems, was tweeted a million times in forty-eight hours on Twitter and posted twelve million times on Facebook in twenty-four hours. I have so many questions: How many of the women who acknowledged sexual harassment or assault had experiences before the age of eighteen? How would their lives be different today if they’d had a safe person with whom they could share their trauma? And if the first negative encounter was before graduating from high school, how many additional instances occurred in adulthood?

The incidents that occur in childhood set a trajectory for life. The path can change with compassionate intervention from a trusted caring adult at home, at school or in the church. This is why it’s so important to recognize the presence of ACE’s in our lives and in the lives of those around us, and to confront them directly. We have the power to change outcomes for our kids, but compassionate intervention is impossible to execute if we choose to be unaware of the problem. We must be honest with ourselves: as adults in our kids’ lives, we not only have the opportunity, but also the responsibility to make a difference. Unless we help, our communities will experience more pain.  

In her 1969 groundbreaking, best-selling autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou shares her personal experience of sexual assault. Her story broke the silence for many. Looking at the life of this accomplished woman of words and wisdom, we see her strength and resilience. She is a beacon of hope for all of us who posted #metoo.

The reality is that 64% of adults have at least one ACE. The good news is that the voices in our culture have shifted. Shows like This Is Us encourage us to find the beauty in our mess. Therefore, let us do all we can to embrace the most beautiful and messy among us — our children.

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Here are some of the possible signs of sexual abuse listed by Stop it Now!, an organization dedicated to abuse prevention. I also encourage all adults to view their complete list of warning signs at

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Poor hygiene
  • Change in eating habits
  • Seems distracted or distant
  • Increased sexual talk or behaviors
  • Disinterested in normal activities or friends

If you suspect abuse is happening to a child you know, seek help immediately by contacting Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (800-422-4453).

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