Virtual webinars work to address and prevent child abuse
Weekly sessions start April 6
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced people to stay in their homes, domestic violence has risen 8.1% in Utah, according to Leisa Mukai, Peace House director of prevention and education.
Peace House has also answered 6,277 domestic violence-related calls and sheltered 124 individuals, a 25% increase compared to 2018, according to its 2019-20 annual report.
“As the only domestic violence service provider in Summit County, Peace House has seen a 50% increase in help-line calls since 2019, and the emergency shelter at the new community campus in Park City has been at or near capacity throughout the pandemic,” Mukai said.
Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Mukai and the anti-domsetic violence nonprofit felt it was a critical time to present its new online Child Abuse Prevention Series, comprised of weekly, one-hour webinars that begin at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 6.
Mukai and Peace House Prevention Specialist Sam Janse created the series with the help of the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Summit County and Wasatch County children’s justice centers, Summit County and Wasatch County victim assistance programs and the Park City Police Department Victim Advocate Program.
“We brainstormed with our community members, counselors and other mental-health coalitions when we developed these workshops,” Mukai said.
The first session is titled “Creating Positive Peer Norms for Teens.” The session will cover social norming, which is the idea that teens want to behave in positive, healthy ways but engage in negative behaviors to be accepted by their peers, according to Mukai.
This webinar will help teens learn to establish positive peer norms for teens, she said.
“One way to protect kids is helping them not engage in unsafe behaviors, and for (parents) to set firm boundaries,” Mukai said. “Another way to protect kids is to educate folks who may not be clear on what appropriate behaviors may be.”
The next workshop, which is scheduled for April 13 is called “Spanking: Perspectives on Corporal Punishment.”
Spanking is a common form of discipline and is used extensively, Mukai said.
“It’s a disciplinary tool that runs through generations of families, but the research that spankings are an ineffective means of discipline is overwhelming,” she said. “It correlates in many forms of violence in adulthood, and that’s partially because spankings address problem solving violently.”
The presentation will explore the historical and social context of spanking and its impact on developing brains, and provide alternative behavioral guidance, Mukai said.
“While I researched this workshop, I found the roots of spankings came out of slavery,” she said. “It wasn’t extensively used until about the 1600s.”
Mukai also found that spankings are rarely delivered when adults are “calm, cool and collective.” “Spankings are often rapid responses to situations, and they carry a lot of anger,” she said. Sometimes when a spanking is accompanied by anger, it crosses over into child abuse, according to the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), Mukai said.
“I know that’s startling for a lot of people to hear, because spankings are generally socially sanctioned, and have been a long-held tool for discipline,” she said.
The April 20 webinar, “Self-Care as Child Abuse Prevention,” looks at ways to help adults find time for themselves to recover from the exhausting and overwhelming responsibilities as parents.
“Parenting is a 24-hour-a-day job, and sometimes we’re not always at our best when something needs our attention,” Mukai said. “This presentation is about how we can refill our cup, so to speak, so we can be more effective. When we have the emotional resources to deal with the ever-changing needs of children, we’ll be less likely to engage in poor parenting practices.”
The session will also help parents overcome feelings of inadequacy.
“Sometimes parenting can be competitive, and it’s easy to wonder how other families do all they do and still take care of a small child,” Mukai said. “We want to show people that every family’s system is different, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re not doing your job if your family life looks different than others’ family lives. Peacefulness is one of the most important things you can bring to parenting. Part of peacefulness is having good boundaries and self care, and self-care for kids.”
The last workshop of the month is “Boundaries and Safety Plans for Families, which is scheduled for April 27.
“This session looks at age-appropriate safety plans in terms of the internet and being out in the community,” Mukai said. “It will help families develop and communicate clear boundaries.”
The session will also give adults and caregivers ways of teaching children from ages 4 to 18 appropriate physical and personal boundaries, she said.
“Building protocols may include safe words, and show the kids who their trusted adults are in their lives,” Mukai said.
In addition to these presentations, Peace House will join Park City High School’s End Violence Now club on April 1 at the Park City Library.
“The club, and some of the members of the student council, will place blue and silver pinwheels, and teal pinwheels at the library,” Mukai said. “Blue and silver are child-abuse prevention colors, and teal represents sexual-assault awareness.”
When: Weekly from April 6 to April 27, 5:30 p.m.
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