A new club at the University of Waterloo, UW Against Child Abuse (UW ACA), is working to reduce the mistreatment of children by sharing information about child abuse and supporting organizations that fight against it.
The club’s co-presidents, fourth-year psychology student Lyne Baaj and fourth-year biomedical science student Emma Jutlah, said they were inspired to start the club to combat misinformation surrounding the issue and reinforce the work of existing organizations working to reduce child maltreatment.
“We wanted to create a safe space to share reliable information about child abuse and the steps you can take to prevent or report it. Children deserve positive and healthy care — we wanted to do what we could to make that happen,” said Baaj.
Although the mistreatment of children and youth is acknowledged in popular culture and the political world, conversations about child abuse are often filled with misinformation. According to research from the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, part of the issue stems from the fact that it is “difficult to comprehend the horror of sexual crimes against children.” As a result, “society’s denial and disbelief have often unwittingly supported the agendas of those who want to discount or minimize the impact of these crimes.”
Online especially, misinformation about child abuse and similar issues is rampant, and much of the available material can be harmful to vulnerable audiences. “There is a lot of poorly worded or structured information that is psychologically dangerous for people to read or watch,” Baaj said.
Accordingly, UW ACA seeks to provide “reliable information in a way that is psychologically safe,” Baaj said. “For example, all of our posts have clear trigger warnings and mental health resources to access support,” she added.
The club has three big teams that work together to create content for social media and organize events. “The first two teams are the Outreach Team and Research Team. They work together to research content about child abuse and format it in accessible ways to then post this information on Instagram. The Events Team is currently working on organizing one event this term to raise money for organizations that fight against child abuse,” Baaj said.
As co-presidents, Baaj and Jutlah offer support, guidance and structure to the operations of the club.
In the short term, UW ACA is working to raise money to combat child abuse. “We do so through our Instagram and events that we are organizing,” Baaj said.
Many of the club’s materials on social media outline steps people can take to reduce the mistreatment of children. “For instance, we share information about steps to take to report child abuse, and who to reach out to for psychological support,” Baaj said. In the long term, Baaj hopes the material UW ACA creates will help the populace combat the issue more effectively.
Students interested in joining UW ACA are encouraged to follow the club on Instagram @UWAgainstChildAbuse. “We share weekly educational content there and updates about our events,” Baaj said. “You can also become a general member; this will give you access to our newsletter which contains more resources, articles to read, and ways to become involved in the fight against child abuse,” she added.