Monday, November 19, 2007

Dear Dr Kiro, most people are not the problem

Dr Cindy Kiro - Children's Commissar (which is a title she will continue to get from me as long as she seeks Orwellian monitoring and surveillance of all families) is, according to Stuff, concerned about a "wall of silence" surrounding child abuse. She cites a rather disconcerting example of a girl of 11 who became pregnant and gave birth at age 12. It isn't clear what has happened in this case, but the girl is not naming the father, and the whole family denies any knowledge.
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There are two likely explanations for her early pregnancy. Either someone older, influential and threatening within the extended family has effectively raped her (and she is too scared to point the finger because she wont be supported by her family), or she has had a boyfriend - transitory or otherwise - and they did what some adolescents do, without protection, and she is protecting him from prosecution. The family silence is far less likely in the latter category, unless she was often away from home and what she got up to was not monitored or even noticed by the family. Dr. Kiro is betting it's the former because of the wall of silence.
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Now the concern being shown is laudable, but what does disturb me is how Dr. Kiro paints a broadbrush over everyone with her statements. She makes it everyone's responsibility.
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For starters she seems to indicate that there is only just now starting to be a cultural change to reject child abuse. Stuff quotes her saying "New Zealand is at a tipping point where communities are making it clear they will not tolerate child abuse and every adult needs to take responsibility for the physical, emotional and sexual abuse and abuse through neglect of our children,". Notice the phrase "communities are making it clear". She likes to collectivise, I tend to think that individuals express themselves, but that is a diversion. The clear implication of this is twofold:
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1. Up until today, people DID tolerate child abuse. This of course will be remarkable news to the vast majority of parents and adults who are appalled by anyone who abuses children. It is counter-intuitive for almost all adults to inflict harm or hurt children. It's not news, it has been a publicly expressed serious concern for at least a generation, and even before that there is little doubt that most people never tolerated child abuse, for as long as the concept of "children" has really existed in Western civilisation (which really does only go back to the early 19th century).
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2. There is consensus that EVERYONE has to take responsibility for the abuse and neglect of children. Not just those who commit it, but you who don't. Where did she get this from? Of course if anyone I knew was abusing a child, it would concern me and I would be likely to take steps to intervene - quite simply I couldn't tolerate it. However, the state can't legislate for this, you can't make people talk, and all you can do is have particularly high standards for those cohabiting with children. A mother who repeatedly stands by while her child is abused by another is effectively an accessory to the crime and is grossly negligent by not protecting the child. In such cases, custody should be removed from her.
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Dr Kiro also said that "New Zealanders had to change their attitudes and behaviour to become more child-focused." Well hold on, most parents do this. Most children are raised in abuse free, loving households. There is a small minority who abuse, and the appropriate response is for the criminal justice system to punish those who do, to protect the victims and to deny welfare (and if necessary custody) from those who commit these offences.
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Underlying all this is, of course, a serious point. There are families which are large, and not so linked by relations as relationships, and in those circumstances it is convenient/lazy for the real parents to let others perform functions "in loco parentis". In other words, many adults have access to the children. Because the children are being watched over by a whole group, it means no two people are paying inordinate attention towards them, providing an opportunity for abuse through fear to be carried out. The rewards of having many adult role models (although sometimes a lot of those are questionable at best) are outweighed by not having two solid ones who protect, provide and monitor those kids. Indeed such large extended families risk there being nobody a child can turn to, because some bonds between adults are greater than those where families are not so closely interlinked. Children need adults they can turn to, trust and who wont respond erratically if they need to tell them something scary or awful - like how a relative, teacher or family friend has threatened them or sexually abused them. It's clear who Dr. Kiro needs to aim her message at, it is those who share the family raising among many adults. In short, the parents need to watch - and be their children's first defence, AND be prepared to turn against any close relatives who may be abusing their kids. The problem is, clearly, disproportionately Maori. Something else Dr. Kiro wont say.
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Like I have said before, why not completely deny welfare benefits from anyone who is convicted of brutality or gross negligence against a child? Or indeed, how about denying welfare from anyone convicted of a serious violent or sexual offence (something above common assault or indecent exposure). Permanently. Stop forcing other New Zealanders to pay for those who are violent to survive. Granted, it would save little money, but it would make an important point.
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and you can watch the socialists whine and defend violent criminals' right to welfare, because they might do it again - so because they will hurt you, you have to be forced to pay for them to live?

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