Friday, September 04, 2009

Do nothing is an option, but

Some years ago when I worked in the public sector, I was reminded by a sagacious manager that "do nothing" was always an option that should be put forward to Ministers, with the relevant consequences. "Do nothing" was valid and often the best option he said.

Sadly, those days appear to have faded somewhat. "Do something" is what people expect and Ministers all want to "do something".

Lindsay Mitchell has written wisely about "what would happen if the government did nothing more about child abuse".

The state houses and pays for some child abusers, it supports those who don't want kids to keep them. So on the one hand it provide succour to those who abuse, on the other hand it also has its core and proper role, which is the identification and prosecution of cases of criminal abuse and neglect. In other words, when the state steps in for the rights of children not to be raped, punched and ignored.

There will always be parents, guardians and strangers who will abuse children in the foreseeable future. Quite simply because there will always be flawed human beings, who thrive in the torture and abuse of others, or those who are simply recklessly destructive, not caring who they ignore in the process. This sort of abuse always happened, children who would be beaten to within inches of being sent to A & E, who were too scared to tell anyone. Parents who knew they could physically abuse or sexually abuse, with others not able to find out. Indeed, in the not too distant past children weren't believed when they told of such things (fortunately the era seems ti have moved on from being convinced kids were being abused even when they adamantly denied it and there was no evidence of abuse).

So what can be done? You cannot hope to have the state monitor and interfere at every point in a child's life and detect abuse. No. Health professionals can keep their eyes open for signs of harm, as can teachers, but this will be by chance. The best hope is for the abused to be able to speak out, which beyond a certain age is possible.

That means both feeling confident to speak out to teachers, relatives, friends, neighbours and strangers, but also for those people to feel they can listen.

For one of the most malignant trends in the last 20 years has been scaremongering about the contact adults have with children, particularly men, particularly alone. Children are taught to fear adults, and adults are taught to not be seen alone with children who aren't their own.

Yes the odds are that every child will encounter at least one adult with such intent, but for every abuser, there are easily 100 adults who will do all they can to be helpful to children. Why? Because frankly if most human beings didn't act that way around children, the species would have died out a long time ago, or barely advanced from the caves.

So how about children being encouraged to talk to adults who they trust, how about children being taught self defence, and how about adults not being scared of children, and finally, how about NOT judging adults with children, unless it is obvious something is wrong?

Oh and while we're at it, is there any reason why those convicted of serious violence and sex ual offenders should be allowed to live with children? Isn't that one way to stop intergenerational abuse?

No comments: