Check out below for my interview with AnnaLynne and Craig about their work against abuse.
ACT: AnnaLynne and Craig, you got together after a bill in Kansas proposed allowing people to beat children to the point of bruising. The bill was defeated, but children are still regularly hit and beaten. What can be done about that? How can we make a shift to let people know that’s not an acceptable form of discipline?
ANNALYNNE: The bill that was going on really struck a chord with me because I know a lot about the effects of corporal punishment. My parents were very conditioned to believe religious ideals of [not] ‘sparing the rod.’ So they were two young parents saying, “I love my children! Yet I believe this very strongly.” We need to educate people that you can believe in your belief systems to the extent it brings you peace and love, not physical abuse. I believe what a lot of doctors and studies have proved, which is that when you use physical discipline on a child, you start creating deep-seated anger that they suffer throughout their lives.
CRAIG: First off, defeating the proposed idea of the bill was a huge moment and everyone did an amazing job. A lot of people don’t realize that spanking a child does a lot more than just leave a mark and bruises. It leaves an imprint in their mind also which can cause a lot more problems further along in life. Making people aware of this is the first step and bringing it to the front of people’s minds. We will not conquer this problem in a day, but we will make steps to show that this is not the right way to deal out punishment. I hope one day we can get a complete ban on spanking and hitting children across the world.
ACT: Did helping to defeat that bill give you encouragement to do more? What do you hope to do next?
ANNALYNNE: Absolutely. Just 50 years ago I bet that bill would’ve been passed.
Sometimes people say to me, “Yeah, you’re an actress. What can I do?” Craig didn’t take that stance. He knows the power of what one person can do. We’re continuing the awareness, talking to our state reps, our congressmen -and -women.
CRAIG: Defeating that first bill was a huge step and a massive accomplishment by everyone involved. The next step, obviously, is to end more bills that come up of the same nature and to possibly set up a safe place via social networking, which children who suffer abuse can use to talk to people who care and will help them.
ACT: Can you tell us how you started the Voice of the Voiceless hashtag and how people can get involved? Craig, you’re hoping to get a foundation started — what are your plans and goals with that?
ANNALYNNE: I learned about the [Kansas bill] on Twitter and really started going after Rep. Finney [the representative behind it]. Craig retweeted what I was saying and reached out to me. We came up with #VoicefortheVoiceless and I suggested writing on my hands because I’ve done that with the Somaly Mam Foundation. It was trending not long after that.
That’s the first thing we came up with. When Craig gets more people behind him to start the foundation, there will be more to do.
CRAIG: A foundation is very much what I would like to have happen. I would like to set up events to raise money to help build some youth clubs for children to attend and set up places of counsel where they can speak to people who 100% care.
ACT: Craig, why is the fight against child abuse so important to you?
CRAIG: It’s important to me because no one should ever have to suffer the way these children do. We are in 2014 now and things like this should have been taken care of years ago. If you ever look into the eyes of a child who has suffered any form of abuse, it really is the most heartbreaking thing.
ACT: AnnaLynne, you’ve very bravely spoken out about being abused. You Tweeted “Violence perpetuates violence,” but you’ve broken the cycle. What advice do you have to help others break from the cycle of child abuse?
ANNALYNNE: Abuse survivors think it’s our fault. My first bit of advice is to forgive yourself and tell yourself this is not your fault. And make yourself believe it.
ACT: If someone is a victim of abuse or knows or suspects that a child is being abused, what can they do?
ANNALYNNE: There are hotlines, but it’s more in-depth than that, because you have emotions involved. The child doesn’t want any harm to come to their parents. … I’m talking about personal experience, not examples of where the parents have malicious intent. I think that getting involved should incorporate the child’s safety while considering their feelings about it. You can go to that child in a private situation and tell them, “I love your mom and dad, but sometimes …” And get their trust, because you’re more likely to get the truth of the situation.
I know there were moments where I wanted to show people my bruises, but then I would think, “But I love my parents!” I also have very good memories with them. The first step for abuse is law enforcement, but I’m also thinking about the long-term response for the child’s psyche, and how to not cause them a different level of trauma.
CRAIG: First and foremost, use your voice. No matter how alone you or they feel, they are never on their own. I know it won’t be easy to do, but if you can find that small spark of courage, then you have taken the first step to making things change. There are people out there that care more than you know and I promise that help is on its way. Please stay strong and never feel like no one understands, because we do.
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