(Photos: Kelly Roche/QEW South Post)
BY KELLY ROCHE
Purple pervaded the cafeteria at John Fraser Secondary School Wednesday morning for the launch of child abuse prevention month.
“Child abuse is a community responsibility and we want to raise awareness around helping the community understand how they can help us protect children,” said Peel Children’s Aid director of service Mahesh Prajapat.
He noted schools are one of their biggest referral sources, pointing out child harm comes in different forms.
Responsibility for safety “falls on everybody that has access and exposure to children,” said Prajapat.
Roughly 200 students and staff were wearing T-shirts marking Oct. 16 as Go Purple day.
Prajapat told students one of the biggest myths about the Children’s Aid Society is they’ll be removed from their family.
“Keeping kids at home is the best way of keeping them safe,” he said.
Peel Regional Police Det. Carolyn Molyneaux urged kids to break the silence by following their gut instinct if they suspect someone – family members, neighbours, teammates, church friends, classmates, etc. – is being abused.
“Please speak to that person, speak to their friends … bring it to somebody’s attention,” said Molyneaux, who works with physically and sexually abused children in the special victims unit.
Visual arts teacher Carm Panico reminded students to “support, report, and uplift.”
That’s a mantra Grade 11 student Faith Glenen knows well.
Glenen said she thinks students would turn to each other to discuss abuse.
“I think that since we create such a large awareness around the school and we make all the students feel comfortable – and actually, student leaders embrace it themselves – it makes kids more likely to talk about it with their friends,” said Glenen.
Panico said spaces within the school are safe and confidential.
“We never encourage students to publicly disclose,” said Panico.
Teens have access to counseling and peer coaches “and if, at any point, someone discloses to a peer coach, they immediately will report to counseling. And when I say immediately, I mean, within the same hour or same day,” said Panico.
Peel CAS received 12,210 calls from April 2014 to March 2015, investigating 7,625 cases of abuse and neglect.
The majority – 3,697 – of referrals came from police.