Raising Awareness to End Violence and Exploitation Against Young People [transcript] [audio]

Guests: Dr. Angela Diaz and Dr. Joanna Rubinstein

Presenter: Neal Howard

Guest Bio: 

Angela Diaz, MD, Ph.D., MPH is the Director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, a unique program that provides high quality, comprehensive, integrated, interdisciplinary primary care, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, dental and health education services to teens-all for free to those without insurance. The Center has an emphasis on wellness and prevention. Under her leadership, the Center has become the largest adolescent specific health center in the U.S., serving each year more than 11,000 vulnerable and disadvantaged youth, including those who are uninsured and lack access to health services. This program addresses health disparity and aims for health equity.

Dr. Joanna Rubinstein is the President & CEO of Childhood USA. In 2015, Rubinstein was appointed as President & CEO of World Childhood Foundation (WCF) USA. Founded in 1999 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, WCF invests in innovative programs to end violence and child sexual abuse and exploitation. An expert on global health and sustainable development, Rubinstein brings to WCF over a decade of experience in leadership roles at Columbia University (CU) and at the United Nations (UN). As Chief of Staff to Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Rubinstein helped develop and lead several global initiatives in health, education and sustainable development. Notably, she supported artist Shakira and ALAS’ work on Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Latin America and the Carribean, the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission, the Ministerial Working Group on Health, and the Millennium Development Goals Advocates. As a Senior Research Scientist and an Assistant Director of the Earth Institute of CU, she was instrumental in the development of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Currently, Rubinstein supports the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group of the UN Secretary General.

Segment Overview: Dr. Angela Diaz, MD, Ph.D., MPH, Director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, and Joanna Rubinstein, DDS, Ph.D., President and CEO, World Childhood Foundation USA, discuss a conference that are brings together leading clinicians, policymakers, and advocates from around the world to highlight the issue of violence and exploitation against minors and raise awareness, prevention and education to end violence against young people.

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us today. Joining us on the program are doctors Angela Diaz, Director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, President and CEO of World Childhood Foundation USA. And they’re joining us here on the program to discuss an upcoming conference bringing together leading clinicians, policy makers and advocates from around the world to highlight the issue of violence and exploitation against minors and hopefully, raise some more awareness, prevention and education to end this violence against our young people. Welcome to the program both Dr. Diaz and Dr. Rubinstein. How are you both?

Dr. Angela Diaz: We are well, thank you.

Dr. Joanna Rubinstein: Thank you so much.

N: I’d like to thank you both for taking the time to talk with us today about this very, very important subject. First of all Dr. Diaz as Director of the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, what is your experience with violence against children before becoming involved in this awareness endeavor?

D: I’m a Pediatrician and I subspecialize in adolescents. So I’m a medical doctor. And I found that when I was seeing young people for the routine healthcare, 23% of them had a history of childhood sexual abuse. I realized how huge a problem this was and that many people were not aware of such a number and we’re not asking the young people and therefore, the young people were going to go to doctor to gain in their physical but then going back home to continue to be sexually abused for example, raping is a major, major problem.

N: So it’s something that you were seeing on a regular basis that prompted you to basically take it to some action?

D: Yes. Like I see on mid-80s, when I realized how the numbers were so high, I actually developed a program at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center to provide psychotherapy to young people who were victims of sexual abuse. And the sexual abuse was mostly incest when they were young in their home by family members. I also created a different group to do psychotherapy for young people that had been raped. These are all teenagers that I worked with and they have been raped either by stranger or people that they were in relationship with. So I realized what a big problem it was and then since the 80s, I began doing interventions with this particular group.

N: Dr. Rubenstein, as President and CEO of World Childhood Foundation USA, is violence against children something that this foundation has always been involved in?

R: Well, the foundation was established already in 1999 which is almost 20 years ago by the Swedish Queen, Queen Silvia of Sweden. And it was in response to her participation in a global meeting on commercial exploitation of children and listening to the survivors, their stories, what they experienced as children and how they were sexually trafficked. Queen Silvia decided to do something about it. And this was why she invested in establishing a foundation and with 14 different founders established offices in four countries – Brazil, U.S., Germany and Sweden. And then the foundation for almost 20 years has been funding programs which address the issue of how to prevent or how to address child sexual abuse not just in these four countries but in a large number of countries. So today, we are funding around 100 different projects in 17 countries.

N: There’s a conference upcoming, how are you both Dr. Diaz and Dr. Rubenstein involved in this conference and talked about how it’s bringing some major players together to combat this violence against our young people, this trafficking?

D: Dr. Rubenstein and I, we met and we realized that we have this common passion to really help young people that have a history of childhood sexual abuse, rape, sex trafficking and other sexual trauma. And we decided to do this conference together, so we are partners. We are collaborating. And the title of the conference is “Ending Violence Against Children: Developing a Roadmap for Healthy Childhood and Adolescence”, because what we wanted is to help all of us together be aware of this major problem, be proactive to end this and then figure out how can we help people heal and move forward and prevent future cases. So that’s actually our intent. I think the beauty of this conference is a record. We are bringing inside the same room, people that are usually not talking together in the same room and that means we’re bringing researchers, providers, policy people, foundation, health insurance, a program and above all, we are also bringing survivors to bring their voice and really I mean, they’re the experts, so we all will be learning together. And we are also bringing different sectors, such as that had to do with youth, like child protection, healthcare, education, the criminal justice system to all the people that have to work with youth and help them. We are bringing them together. I think this is a global. I’m going to let Joanna describe that.

R: I think this is also a matter of timing. So I felt incredibly fortunate when I was introduced to Dr. Diaz a year ago and actually, we had the opportunity together with Princess Madeleine of Sweden who is very much engaged in the foundation and advocacy work who visits at the Mount Sinai Center and even to meet with the survivors and to realize that we are not really addressing properly the challenge of child sexual abuse. One, I think the public is not aware of the scale of the problem. Secondly, the sectors that are usually working with children like health sector and education sector are not really equipped to do this work and shouldn’t be equipped. So recognizing the fact that we have probably at least 10 to 20% of children in the world that are sexually abused. This is a major public health epidemic that remains silent. So step one is like how can this meeting help us to raise awareness about health sexual abuse which at the end of the day is also a cause of very many health problems. So this particular meeting quite so timely is because 2015, all the world leaders agreed on the common sustainable development goals. And one of these goals, SDG – Sustainable Development Goal 16 Target 2 is talking about ending all forms of violence against children including emotional, physical and sexual violence against children by 2030 which means that we all have a common goal. And this is such a great opportunity to bring all the experts to think about if we want all children to be free from sexual violence by 2030, what do we need to do and how? What would it take? What knowledge are we missing? What resources do we need? What is the plan of action to reach those goals?

D: And the reason that this is so important, it is about negative impact on the well-being of children. Young people who are sexually abused are more likely to be depressed, to be suicidal, to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and a whole bunch of stress, substance use. So it has a major impact in the development of the young person and their well-being.

R: Especially in sexually abused very early on, it also leads to learning disabilities. So there are many horrible consequences if child sexual abuse is not addressed and we don’t allow the healing of the victims.

N: Now, many of our listeners aren’t going to be able to make that conference, after the conference in just a couple of days, where can our listeners become involved in raising awareness and combating childhood sexual violence and trafficking after this conference?

D: To all listeners who are interested, they can email us. And I will give you my email. It’s [email protected] You also said that they have an interest and then Joanna and I will discuss it and figure out how to involve in moving forward.

R: And I can be reached at the foundation both website which is childhood-usa.org and my email address is [email protected]

N: Thank you so much both of you for talking with us today, Dr. Diaz and Dr. Rubinstein. It’s been a pleasure.

D: Thank you so much.

R: Thank you.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud and be sure and visit our affiliates page on our platform at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au.

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