Monday, July 30, 2007

It is time to play the blame game

The CE of the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, Heather Henare - regarding the abominable instances of brutal assault against children was recently in a press release saying:
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"Just playing the blame game will achieve absolutely nothing. Nor will evermore punitive sanctions, which will only serve to further alienate individuals from their whanau"
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Blame is an inflammatory word which means attributing responsibility, and while some are of a political bent to not ever make anyone responsible for anything (other than government or business or any group perceived as having "power") responsibility for the abuse of children lies primarily with one party.
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The abuser is to blame first, and any accessory to the abuser is also culpable. Serious abusers (the systematic and brutal) should be sentenced with a permanent prohibition on having custody of children or living in the same premises as children. The real need to protect children from abuse has been distracted by campaigns for sex offender registers, plenty of abusers do not sexually offend. If you are brutal towards children you should never be allowed to live with any.
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However, there is also responsibility when another adult responsible for the child does nothing. Being an accessory means doing nothing while the child is being abused, a few revel in it, many fear repercussions in confronting it or leaving. However, remaining with any person abusing your child should be considered criminal negligence, unless you report the person to the Police. In this case the Police must be effectice and competent in providing protection and apprehending suspects.
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Yes, I know that some feminists will excuse this negligence by women because of fear, but frankly any mother who is so scared of someone that she simply refuses to protect her child is not worthy of the custody of that child. Who else is meant to do it? Is the state meant to monitor everyone (like Cindy Kiro seems to want)? What is being a parent about if it is not first and foremost to protect your child? When do those who peddle "no blame and no responsibility" for anyone about anything accept that there IS responsibility here? Any parent worthy of that title and certainly almost all the ones I know would sacrifice themselves to save their child's life, it is not just instinctual, it is a rational reaction to the love for that child.
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Her nice words such as "We need to make sure we are not alienating whanau and that increased support goes into preventing such abuse from happening".
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Oh, "alienating whanau", the only ones that should feel alienated are whanau who sit by and do nothing, who cover up for the abuse of each other, who collectively parent and hold no individual responsibility. Children are being battered, abused and killed, and she worries about upsetting people - well Heather, there is a reason for getting upset - brutality upsets and if it doesn't upset any particular whanau then what the hell are they? They are part of the problem. It is not a race issue, except that apparently more Maori abuse their children than non-Maori, and that is nobody else's fault other than the abusers. Anything else is direct denial of the facts.
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The "support" needed are a combination of law enforcement, support for womens' refuges (which perform an invaluable role) and appropriate means so that abused children and adults can turn to someone to get redress. It's about breaking down the walls of large families who look after each other, including the abusers and who refuse to confront the cancer within. That refusal is costing lives, and I don't care who the hell gets upset in the process.
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and Heather you're wrong when you say "people must accept violence and abuse are issues for every part of society to confront". As a collectivist, you talk about parts of society. There is a part of society that doesn't need to confront it - those of us who don't abuse. We're not the problem.
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By contrast, Family First NZ (hardly an organisation I'd have much philosophical support for) has presented a programme which, on the face of it, isn't a bad start:
1. establishing a non-political Commission of Inquiry comprising community leaders who are working with at-risk families to identify causes of child abuse and effective solutions, and examining specifically the role of drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown, race-based issues and poverty in these high rates. Well I'd want more than community leaders, I'd want some decent expertise across the intellectual, philosophical spectrum but it may be helpful;
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2. an immediate increase of support and resourcing to grass-root community organisations who are working with at-risk families attempting to stop abuse in the first place - for example HIPPY Foundation, Early Start, Family Help Trust and other early childhood home-based programmes. In principle, this could be helpful too, though I'd be careful about what organisations to support, and in the longer term this should be through donation not state funding.
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3. an increased investment in parenting organisations such as Parents Inc and other community based positive parenting programmes. More sceptical of this, although by donation this could also be helpful. Indeed, supporting non-partisan, secular parenting support organisations may be a far better use of taxes than welfare.
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4. a media-based anti-child abuse campaign, in the same way road safety ‘shock’ campaigns are run, raising the awareness of and encouraging ‘positive’ parenting and identifying what is abuse. The UK National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children already does this, there should be the same in NZ, and people should contribute towards a fund to support this.
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5. sentencing for those who abuse and kill our children to be substantially increased to provide both a deterrent and a clear message of our community’s disgust with the actions of people who abuse children. Like I've said, there should be a clear increase in sentences at the severe end of the spectrum. Recidivists should be the priority. Anyone who is convicted a second time for any violent/sexual offence against children should be considered for preventive detention or denial of custody sentencing.
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There is a severe problem in New Zealand of systemic child abuse, particularly in lower income Maori families. The problem is not poverty, most poor people don't abuse their kids. There is no excuse for the vile behaviour spread across the media as of late - it's just a shame that some want to evade individual responsibility as the sole cause.

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