Learning the lessons of child abuse

We have talked the talk, as the saying goes. Every time there has been another outrage perpetuated against the children of New Zealand, we have gone through the motions. First comes the horror that another child has died a horrible death. Then comes the anger and finally comes the chatter.

But what comes after that?

Nothing. Very quickly a deafening silence. We move on. The family grieves. Politicians express their horror and demand action. The offender/s may or not be caught. No one seems to want to learn and implement the lessons that have been taught by the numerous high profile cases we have had in the last 15 years in New Zealand.

It seems to me that child abuse stems from a number of underlying causes. I have conceived the idea that each of these is an area that should be studied. Thus a basic set of courses with codes have been developed.

Child abuse is a reflection of a non-functional family, possibly struggling to make ends meet, where Parenting 101 and 102 have failed. PAR101 is to actually be a parent – i.e. set boundaries for ones children and enforce them, but also to love them. PAR102 is about providing as far as they reasonably can the necessities of life. This will not always be possible – one might lose their job or their significant other might die, substantially increasing the burden on the other. PAR103 is about being there as parents for a child (not talking about the necessities, but about a stable parental influence) – obviously if one has died this is not going to be possible as a Mum/Dad team. However without putting down solo parents, of which I know several, the advantages of both parents having a constructive role in their children’s lives are undeniable.

Child abuse is in part also a reflection of a society that might be functional, but is not as healthy as it could be. In a healthy society, SOC101, which is about caring for the very young, the elderly and the vulnerable as well as the sick and the disabled will have succeeded. It would have done so because the success of SOC101 is contingent on acknowledging that these groups of people are genuine, and not as some people suggest just there to suck up taxpayer dollars. SOC102 has a longer term goal than SOC101 because it requires the co-operation of industries with significant money tied up. In terms of individual course participants, SOC102 is about helping people with addictions including parents understand the damage they are doing to themselves and their families.

But child abuse is also about justice. In this case, as children are often to young and/or frightened and/or confused, JUS101 is about ensuring the caregivers co-operate fully with the police. Setting a good legal precedent in child abuse cases is difficult if one party or the other – or both – have hidden evidence, since children will not know the how and the why of the justice system existing. It might just be that child abuse cases have to become exempt from permitting adults to remain silent. JUS102 would be about reforming the Family Court, which seems to grind out decisions that sometimes do more damage to families than what led to the F.C. being involved in the first place.

Finally there is social policy. SOP101 would be based on the idea that social policy should be about providing for a security net for all New Zealanders, but with emphasis on the young, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the vulnerable. If SOP101 fails, it weakens all parts of society. It pushes up the costs in the longterm, not just in money and resources being necessary, but reduces productivity and quality of life. A country that has no social security net because SOP101 failed is most likely to have an underclass. SOP102 to SOP106 would be addressing the needs of the five categories mentioned. For arguments sake SOP102 will be for the young.

These stage 100 modules are just the first part of a pretend three stage degree. If you are competent at the end of stage three, will you be brave enough to try stage four: actually suggesting and being willing to debate a plan for addressing child abuse?

1 thought on “Learning the lessons of child abuse

  1. I grieve still for a child that I had contact with. I Did not intervene. I was told by the Whanau “let it be “, “it is the Maori way”.. Every time the media expose another case I’d horrific child abuse I sadly regret my decision to ” let it be”.
    The trouble is that our Society has become so insular, with people encouraged to pitch in against each other, not for each other. To turn a blind eye to people in need. There was a time when the community cared for everyone’s children and elderly. Where people kindly assisted the mentally ill and the disabled. Where people knew their meighbours. Where the shopkeepers knew their customers personally, where the Dr did not need a computer to look up the next patients records.
    Now the State is looked to to provide those services, even within families.
    How about we get back our humanity and start caring for each other again. Blow the state.
    It’s time ethics, manners, and empathy were taught by parents, by churches, by the community, and in our schools.
    In the pursuit of profit we have forgotten our humanity.


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