Chattanooga’s Kids on the Block has partnered with local entrepreneur Matt Hodges on a “Stop Child Abuse Campaign” during the month of April, National Child Abuse Prevention month.
Through this campaign, Mr. Hodges, a survivor of abuse, speaks about the fact that society isn’t aware of the common nature of abuse, representative of the few cases that get reported. Due to this, the perpetrator continues to operate unfettered and has the freedom to continue harming more children, he said.
“Kids on the Block is likely the only organization that attacks the root of the cycle of violence at the source of the truth, our children,” says Mr. Hodges. “They have programs specifically designed to educate children and foster an environment where children feel safe talking. Sadly, our Kids on The Block organization lost their primary funding source. In an effort to help Chattanooga realize the value of their services, I am speaking out.”
Mr. Hodges says he is a believer that the abuse cycle will only stop when cases come to light. That same light is what will help heal many victims, he says, because he is a victim; the victim that has been referenced in numerous news articles: Ex-McCallie School Official Pleads Not Guilty in Sex Case; Teacher Accused of Molestation Gave Victims Drug Laced Brownies; and Alleged Abuse Victim Faces Carlsbad Headmaster.
“I am the eighth grader from McCallie School that was referenced in all of those articles,” said Mr. Hodges. ”I spoke out about what happened to me as soon as I made it back to the safety of my parents. My parents and McCallie School supported me completely to the point that they fired the offender. We reported it to the police, and a full investigation was done. Fast forward 19 years from 1993, I came home from work to find a business card in my door from the Carlsbad Police Department in California. To my horror, I found out that I was just one of many that were sexual abused by the same guy over the last 20 years.”
"One of the largest issues associated with child sexual abuse is the fact that most cases go unreported. A report on child abuse in Time magazine found that as few as one in 10 instances is confirmed by social-service agencies. The lack of reported incidents allows sex offenders the ability to continue harming more children. Stopping the cycle of abuse requires victims to report the crime; however, these victims are the weakest and most vulnerable part of our society. It requires tremendous courage for them to speak up," officials said.
Mr. Hodges says he will be an advocate for any child or family dealing with an issue like this, and strongly encourages the benefits of doing the right thing, no matter the cost. “I will fully support anything that helps to bring these crimes to light and give children a voice. That is why I recently began vocally supporting Kids on The Block, who, as they helped me, can continue to help children in our community.”
CKOB offers the Personal Safety educational programs to third grade students in 16 counties free of charge through grants, contributions, and sponsorship opportunities. The program uses the nationally recognized child-size Kids on the Block puppets to communicate with children in an non-threatening safe environment, giving them skills to stay safe and healthy. The personal safety program addresses child abuse through the eyes of an eleven and fourteen year old puppet kid.
“We see children looking up to the puppet 'kids' as though they are peers,” said Wendy Davis, CKOB puppeteer, educator, and statistician. “The children in our educational programs find it easier to open up and talk to the puppet kids due to the non-threatening environment we create. Many find it easier to share their secrets with puppet friends. Through the age appropriate programs and the use of puppetry, children view the 'puppets' as trusted friends, making it easier for children to identify with them and begin communicating more effectively with parents or a trusted adult."
More information and how you can support this campaign can be found on CKOB website www.kidsontheblock.net or by visiting www.causestoker.com.