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Opinion: Paddle boarder’s laudable mission

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The efforts of Australian paddle boarder Damien Rider to raise awareness of child abuse, which is an important, yet seldom-discussed, topic deserves the support of everyone on the island.

At first glance, an 800-kilometer solo paddle board expedition through some of the planet’s most notoriously shark-infested waters in Australia might seem an impractical and dangerous way to try to raise awareness of child abuse issues back on terra firma. But a closer look into Mr Rider’s difficult life journey as a victim of extreme forms of childhood abuse reveals a personal triumph.

Those traumatized by direct and indirect violence at school or at home deserve all the support society can give them. By setting up the ‘Paddle Against Child Abuse’ (PACA) foundation to raise awareness of these issues and trying to provide direct assistance to young child abuse victims, Mr Rider is taking the next step – and apparently healing himself in the process.

‘Child abuse’ is a very broad term, one that encompasses a wide range of negative behaviors from neglect to actual physical and mental harm. The key to preventing child abuse lies in maintaining strong family units that provide children with a sense of comfort and positive support, allowing them the confidence to grow and flourish.

‘Social media’, perhaps inappropriately named, given how unsocial it makes people, is a growing concern when it comes to abuse, as pointed out by Urai Maidukem of the Phuket Shelter for Children and Families on Koh Sireh. Too often children and parents are plugged into their phones, forgetting to take the basic steps necessary to develop those close bonds vital for creation of a strong family unit. However, such media is a double-edged sword, which can also be used by victims as a comfortable way to cry out for help.

Here in Phuket, we can still witness child abuse all around us, everyday. Most often it comes in the form of sheer neglect, such as when careless parents allow teens to speed around on motorcycles without a helmet, or to stay out late at night unsupervised.

Despite the gravity of the problem, talk about child abuse seems to arise only in the wake of incidents that are reported in the media, such as when an irate teacher metes out excessive corporal punishment to a disobedient student, or when other forms of violence result in maiming or death.

For the most part, however, cases of child abuse remain hidden behind closed doors, but even when they don’t, most of us tend to look the other way, even when the child is staring us in the face.

If Mr Rider’s PACA can raise awareness of some of the issues involved, and if a center can be set up to help child abuse victims, it would mean a very significant step – or paddle – in the right direction.

 

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