What Empowerment Really Looks Like

April was child abuse prevention month, but unless you work in the child welfare field it may have passed without you even knowing. This, in some ways could be viewed as a disservice. Other evils of our world, like cancer and AIDs receive so much (deserved) attention. But why can child abuse prevention month go by with not so much as a whisper? If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: did you know April was child abuse prevention month? Because I didn’t until I saw a poster about it at my internship, an internship where it was my responsibility to prevent child abuse, and I hadn’t heard of child abuse prevention month. I’m pretty plugged into the world but somehow I missed this one. It got me thinking, who are we targeting when we ask people to help prevent child abuse? Teachers, church workers, coaches, neighbors? Yes. In fact four out of those five are what’s known as mandated reporters, meaning that if they suspect child abuse or neglect and do not report it they can be held liable under most state law. Sometimes however there are no outward signs of child abuse.

As social workers we are taught to see people through a strengths perspective where we not only meet the client where they are at but we help identify strengths of the individual and play off these to facilitate change. Two ideas guide our practice: self determination and empowerment. Self determination is the clients right to choose. This past April a Spanish organization called Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation, or ANAR for short, launched an ad campaign that not only encompassed strengths perspective, but highlighted an abused child’s right to take control of their lives. This is what empowerment looks like.

ANAR created an ad using lenticular technology. I am not the resident geek so I don’t really know what lenticular technology is, but as you can see from the video, it looks like  they used two layers of ad to essentially make one ad for adults and one for children. If anyone taller than 4’5 passes by the ad they just see the photo of the young boy and the words “sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it”. But anyone under this height sees the bruises on the child’s face and the words “if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you” with the organizations phone number.

In short, to me, this ad is amazing. This organization is giving a child the right to choose. Strengths perspective all over the place! By making the message available to kids eyes only, ANAR has given any abused child the freedom and space to act upon the message at their own pace and free from fear of any adult. Because abused children are rarely only worried about the retribution of their abuser but also the shame and fear  that they feel at the thought of their secret being revealed. This ad shifts the power from abuser to abused, giving children the ability to take control, something that they have before been denied.

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