Friday, September 30, 2011

48 Hours examined the state of bullying & cyberbullying in our nation’s schools and what they found was alarming!

If you think bullying isn’t a serious problem in schools, or better yet, if you think bullying isn’t happening in your child’s school, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are sadly mistaken!  CBS’ 48 Hours recently aired a special: Bullying – Words Can Kill  (you can view it online at that depicted the state of bullying and cyberbullying in America.  They portrayed an in-depth look at bullying in one typical American middle school and what they witnessed and reported was eye-opening! Nice, normal, everyday kids are being bullied, harassed and tormented to the point they skip school, change schools or leave school altogether.  Some kids even go to an extreme to escape the devastating effects of the torment – they commit bullycide.
Bullycide is the fairly recent term used to describe a suicide committed by a child or teen in response to or after being bullied.  According to
The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:
   Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
   Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.
   A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying.
   10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above.
   According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying.

The research regarding this relationship is very young, but the truth is we don’t need the research to see that a relationship does exist and prevention is needed. Young teens and tweens inherently are trying to discover who they are and are desperately trying to fit in with their peers – developmentally speaking; it is a notoriously difficult time in their lives.  Add to that having to endure bullying and cyberbullying, and for many, it becomes unbearable. But by the time they reach middle school and high school it may be too late – the damage may be done, the window for prevention, for creating a generation of caring, empathetic kids who see the damage this does, long gone.

That’s why at the Monique Burr Foundation for Children we believe prevention regarding bullying and cyberbullying must start earlier, much earlier.  Our Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) Program for 1st through 5th grades includes bullying and cyberbullying prevention and it discusses other forms of digital abuse and safety as well! Visit our website at to learn more about the program and how you can get involved or bring the SUBS program to your area!  This show also leads me to my next two “Question of the Day” blog entries: Why do kids bully? and Why do kids send sexually explicit pictures and misuse technology?  So stay tuned for those – coming soon!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Does Child Abuse Happen?

This is a question I am often asked.  Why does child abuse happen?  The last time I was asked was just a few days ago by my 10 year old, “Mom, why do people do those things to kids?” after she overheard me telling someone on the phone what workshops I recently attended at the 12th National Conference on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in New Orleans hosted by the National Children’s Advocacy Center.  Answering a 10 year old about sexual abuse is difficult but I gave it my best shot in my “I want to educate her but not freak her out” mom way.  Not sure how I did, but it did spark this idea for the blog; what about a “Question of the Day” series.  No one is ever really comfortable asking questions about child abuse, especially “why” questions, so I thought I’d tackle those hard to ask and answer questions, especially the why questions!  I’ll start with Why does child abuse happen? And over the next few weeks I’ll answer questions like, Why do kids bully?, Why are so many kids sexually abused/are those numbers real?, Why do kids send sext messages and cyberbully each other?, Why is Florida 4th in the nation for the number of child abuse reports?, and the biggie, Why don’t kids speak up?  And to give you some insight into the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Why was the Foundation formed and why do we do what we do?
So let’s start with “Why does child abuse happen?”  Are abusers simply terrible, evil people who shouldn’t be parents? Well that’s what many people think, and I guess the answer to that question depends on the type of abuse you’re thinking about – whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, or abandonment.  The media often depicts only the most heinous of abuse cases – the kids locked in closets and fed dog food, the kids sold by their parents and sexually exploited, and of course the tragedies like the Lauren Book and Jaycee Dugard cases – and many professionals and agencies perpetuate that stereotype by passing along those stories and scare statistics on their own blogs and social media sites.
But in reality, the majority of child abuse cases that are substantiated in the US are cases of neglect and not at the hands of evil, terrible parents, but parents or caregivers who lack education, resources and support to be better and do better.  There is an ecological model of risk and protective factors that explains what puts one child/family at a higher risk for abuse over another – quite simply when the risk factors outweigh the protective factors a parent, caregiver or family is at a higher risk of abusing their child(ren) or of their child becoming a victim of abuse or neglect.
Click Here for the social-Ecological Model of Child Abuse and Nelgect.
So while it is true that abuse and neglect can happen to anyone, there are reasons it happens in some families and  in some homes and not others, and this is important because it gives us a knowledge base from which to prevent abuse and neglect – and here at the Monique Burr Foundation, that is what we are all about!  So now you have a better understanding of “Why abuse happens”.  Stay tuned to a future post where I’ll address what you can do about it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Veto Violence – a Great Example of Getting it Right in Child Abuse Prevention!

The Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc. has a simple mission:
To make a positive impact on the community at large, to create change in a family’s life for the better, and to give hope in the life of a child by providing safety and child abuse prevention education that is relevant to issues facing children today, including all forms of abuse, neglect, bullying and internet safety. While it may seem a simple mission, its implementation is quite complex and takes the efforts of not only our Foundation team but also parents, schools, and community partners to make it happen.
Working together in the field of child abuse prevention is a necessary and worthwhile effort if the goal is to truly reduce or stop abuse; however in the past there was little “togetherness” in effort or energy.  That tide is turning though.  Conferences are bringing together professionals to share their successes, agencies are collaborating to share resources, and organizations are developing programs and strategies to help professionals in the field do more with less and impact children in a way like never before.
One of those organizations is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) with their injury and violence prevention programs.  The CDC recognizes violence, including child maltreatment, as a serious public health concern and has stepped up with research and programs designed to study the problem, look for solutions and educate the public on prevention.  The newest tool in their arsenal is the VETO violence project (Violence Education Tools Online).  You can find their website at: and their Facebook page at:
You can take an online course titled: Principles of Prevention (and even earn CEU’s), learn prevention basics, and more!  Truly a fabulous resource for parents and professionals alike.  Hope you check it out!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Jersey Passes Toughest Anti-Bullying Legislation in US – But how does it Prevent Bullying?

In response to Rutgers Freshman Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide after webcam images were taken and posted of him on the internet, the New Jersey legislature passed the toughest anti-bullying legislation in the nation. Those requirements, which impact all public schools in New Jersey, go into effect today and there is plenty of debate about their practicality and effectiveness. While no one, including me, in any way is minimizing the devastating effects of the bullying on Tyler or any other child or youth, they are questioning the effectiveness of the requirements of this law and whether they would have prevented the incident that led to Tyler’s suicide.  Additionally, others in the education field are questioning the feasibility of asking schools to implement such drastic measures on already burdened schools.
The law requires every school to have an anti-bullying specialist and a safety team. It requires teachers or other school personnel to complete reports on any and all incidents within 24 hours and investigations to be started immediately and completed within 10 days. The problem is, who defines what they considering bullying and where is social media or cyberbullying, often now called digital abuse, in this effort? There are a growing number of children who are bullied via online and other digital technologies and the law doesn’t include those types of incidents at all.
My biggest concern with this legislation, while I applaud New Jersey for taking a stand, being active and doing something, is once again it is reactive rather than proactive.  It does not require an education component to prevent bullying.  There is no program being implemented to stop bullying in the first place, so kids still have to suffer from the bullying before anyone is going to intervene! The damage will already be done! The consequences unknown – FOR NOW.
In Florida, Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) is attempting just the opposite.  SUBS is a prevention education program that addresses safety and all forms of child abuse, bullying and digital abuse – including internet and cell phone dangers. The program includes tools for parents, school personnel and the community in an attempt to empower and motivate all adults to protect children. Offered throughout the state to all 1st through 5th grade students by the year 2015 by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc., the program is in the process of expanding state-wide as a collaborative effort with the Office of the Governor of the State of Florida, the State Department of Education, the State Department of Health, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Ounce of Prevention and other sponsors and partners. Finally a proactive approach – I love it!
To find out more about SUBS and MBF or to help us bring SUBS to your area sooner and prevent bullying at your school – visit