By: Lori Poland, Executive Director
I learned how difficult this world can be at the young age of three when while playing in my front yard in the middle of a hot summer day, with all of my neighbors and friends outside, a stranger drove up, opened the passenger door and asked if I liked candy.
Of course, like any sugar loving child, I got into his car and off we went. He took me to the mountains, abused me, and left me for dead 15 feet below ground in the pit of an outhouse toilet. Four days later, bird watchers heard my cries and I was reunited with my shattered family.
Life was never the same.
I knew as far back as I can remember that things like this don’t happen to most people, and that if it was going to happen to me, I sure was going to do something positive with it. That’s why I’ve spent my life modeling the power of hope, healing, empathy, compassion, forgiveness and growth for others. To peruse my goals, I started a peer counseling program in high school and a lunch alone program to join kids who ate alone. After high school, I went on to become a motivational speaker, talking to thousands of people each year on how to live life to the fullest, and eventually went on to get a master’s degree in counseling psychology, working with children, couples, parents, and individuals. Most recently, two and half years ago to be exact, I committed to the man who helped me back after my kidnapping, Dr. Richard Krugman. Together we founded the National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect (EndCAN).
Since then, we have made an imprint on society by saying it is OK to talk about child abuse and neglect (CAN, for short). That we can - through advocacy, research, education, training, and prevention - end child abuse in our lifetime. We’ve begun by conducting a disruptive competition to evaluate and reconfigure the work we do with CAN. The several messaging campaigns we’ve jumpstarted to begin a change in conversation around CAN have been centered around shifting the view of this as taboo to one that is a health issue, in addition to a social and legal issue. Why? Because we know that that so many diseases directly correlate with abuse. EndCAN has also partnered with Boulder-based creative agency, Fortnight Collective, to create a new campaign aimed at raising awareness around child abuse in efforts to prevent the abuse. This is not only a problem that needs to be dealt with by social services and law enforcement officials, it’s ALSO a physical health, mental health and public health problem, that needs to be addressed and supported by ALL people. This same thing has been done successfully with smoking, substance abuse, LGBT rights, AIDS, civil rights, cancer, etc. When we as a society see things as our duty, in the lens of being able to DO something to help improve it, change then follows.
For far too long, people have been silent about CAN and focused on shaming, blaming, and judging the topic itself, robbing one another of the safety to be able to share, express, heal and overcome with pride. Silence has had its day, and I am here to be the voice for child abuse and neglect.
I ask EVERYONE who’s been affected by abuse and neglect to unite their voices by living with compassion, love, empathy so we can end child abuse and neglect.