2018 marks the 35th anniversary of the Stop Child Abuse and Neglect  (SCAN) program of Lutheran Social Services in our community schools. What started as a modest effort to educate a handful of kindergarten children about child abuse has steadily grown to serve 12,000 students annually. It includes multiple grade levels of programming, and expand into private and parochial schools, and travel to cover students in western Racine County and Kenosha County.

SCAN currently provides free child abuse prevention lessons to preschoolers, kindergartners, 2nd, 4th, and 6th graders in Racine and Kenosha County schools.  During the 2016-2017 school year, SCAN taught lessons to over 12,000 youth.  Students are taught to recognize abusive situations, to disclose abuse should it occur, and identify sources of support.  Above all, we want children to know that abuse is never the fault of the child. April is a special month for SCAN because it is nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time for the community to come together to show support for children and families.  While intervention policies and ways to stop incidents of child abuse and neglect are crucial, they are by definition reactive. Prevention starts ‘upstream’ from the problem to address values and beliefs that surround it.

Prevention can take many forms.   It can be about educating adults to become nurturing, positive parents who can balance love and limits.  It can be about teaching children to recognize abuse and disclose it.  But it also is about influencing changes in our culture that perpetuate the abusive behavior.  The Stop Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) program of Lutheran Social Services is an agent of that change.

Prevention education needs to address myths about the abuse that shroud it in secrecy. People hold many misconceptions about abuse. Among them:parents have the right to mistreat their children, parents who abuse kids don’t love them kids deserve the abuse they get what happens at home should stay at home abuse only happens in poor families very few children experience abuse usually happens at the hands of strangers sexual abuse can’t happen to boy when a girl is sexually abused, she was asking for it.

As a result of these misconceptions, children who experience abuse tend to feel shame and keep it a secret because they believe that they are the only person it is happening to, the abuse is somehow their fault, and that no one will believe them. This stigma allows the abuse to continue and prevents the child from getting the intervention needed to heal the physical, cognitive, and emotional scars.

We all have a role to play in spreading encouraging messages as a means of dispelling the stigma surrounding abuse.  We invite you to join us as we invest in great childhoods and a healthy community.

Want to help? You can mail charitable contributions to SCAN at 2000 Domanik Drive 4th Floor, Racine, WI 53404.
Questions about how to get involved? Call Karen Fetherston at 262-619-1633.

SCAN is funded by the United Way of Racine County, the United Way of Kenosha County, Potawatomi Heart of Canal Street, and through private donations from organizations, schools, individual, and businesses.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.