Thursday, 2 August 2007


Garth George: Weak, stupid responses to the evil of child abuse
5:00AM Thursday August 02, 2007
By Garth George

The merciless abuse of two Rotorua tots is not a scandal. That is far too mild a word to describe such atrocities.

Nor is it enough to call these a national disgrace or national shame. They are both, but the nearest anyone has come to an adequate description is Michael Laws who, writing on Sunday, described them as "evil".

He is right, but I'll go further: they are positively satanic, for only the Prince of Darkness could so corrupt a society that it could breed Homo sapiens who get sadistic pleasure in torturing and injuring their own young.

And take it from me, the Devil is just as alive and kicking today as he was in Old Testament times. He remains, after all, the prince of this world. What is a scandal are the nonsensical knee-jerk reactions of politicians and others and the ideas they come up with.

This has happened before several times, the last the furore that followed the deaths last year of the Kahui twins. But as Peter Dunne says, all that has been achieved is "a large amount of hand-wringing and navel gazing".

The stupidity of the Government's first initiative is almost incomprehensible. It proposes to have all women visiting public hospitals asked about family violence. What that hopes to achieve is beyond my grasp.

Acting Social Development Minister Steve Maharey says frontline health workers in hospitals will try to find out whether there is violence in a family and whether any kind of assistance can be given.

This is preposterous, and if those frontline health workers have a grain of sense they will not have a bar of it.

Otherwise, they'll wear it, for I can imagine the reaction of a number of my female friends if they were asked such a question when turning up at accident and emergency for treatment, for instance, of a cut finger.

And imagine what such questioning might do to a woman who has been admitted to hospital having been diagnosed with a dread disease and who is in a state of acute anxiety, fear or even shock?

In any case, the last thing the very women who are targeted by this absurd proposal are going to do is to admit to anything to someone they don't know and probably don't trust.

And rightly so. To whom do these inquisitive front-line health workers report if their suspicions are aroused? To some social worker, perhaps, who might misconstrue the patient's responses and try to interfere when no interference is necessary?

What about privacy concerns? Are communications between patients and medical professionals no longer privileged?

Meanwhile Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro throws up her hands in horror and rabbits on about the need for educational programmes. Which is all very well, except that the sort of mental retards who abuse and kill children are ineducable.

Then there's the Maori issue, for there are five times as many Maori children abused and killed each year than in any other ethnic group.

Maori Party leader Pita Sharples whines that he feels ashamed and guilty over these latest abominations but in the next breath insists - in spite of all the evidence - that child abuse among Maori is not a problem that can be reduced to ethnicity.

Wrong, Dr Sharples. If Maori are killing Maori children then it could well be an ethnic problem and it is time that he and the entire leadership of the Maori race took ownership of it.

Maori activists are always crying out to be allowed to find Maori answers to Maori problems. Well, here is one of the biggest problems facing Maori today and their leaders had better get off their butts and find some answers.

And I mean answers, because all we have seen up to now is the usual - trying to apply sticking-plaster solutions to symptoms instead of diagnosing and organising treatment for the causes. These are always much more difficult and expensive to treat but, that aside, the trouble is that most of those in political, social and ethnic leadership wouldn't recognise the root causes if they jumped up and bit them.

Things like the breakdown of families (whanau included), neighbourhoods and communities. Poverty and welfare dependency running from generation to generation. An exploitive low-wage economy. A nanny state that interferes with parenting. A disinclination to enforce the laws on school attendance. A drinking age that's too low and a drug supply that seems to grow exponentially. Continuous sex and violence on television and in movies. And a public morality that says anything goes, including open-slather abortion.

That's just some of them. And even if by some miracle our leaders did begin to understand that these sorts of things lie at the root of our national malaise, it would still take a least a generation to even begin to fix them. Then again, perhaps it's already too late.

1 comment:

welshy said...

Nia deserves dignity.
What did Nia’s world look like through those beautiful little eyes? Did she have anyone that made her feel safe? Did she struggle against her attackers - or was her spirit already broken? Nia suffered more fear, brutality and humiliation in the last three weeks of her life than any person should see in a lifetime. Let’s remember her with dignity.

This darling girl was attacked and tortured by thugs aged 17-21. If they were a pack of dogs attacking a lamb, they would have been shot on sight. If SHE was a small animal instead of a child, she would have been rescued by the SPCA and placed in a good, safe home. We Kiwis love our animal rights. But we wring our hands when it comes to child brutality. (Please, it’s not child abuse, it’s brutality. Abuse suggests it can be survived.) And act like it’s a rarity.

But hang on a minute. What’s changed since the little Kahui babies were murdered a whole year ago? An Otara couple were recently sentenced to four years jail for beating a child to death. An 18 month old boy’s in Starship with serious, painful injuries he’d had for a month before seeing a doctor. Same old, same old.

What can we girls do to help?

No one of us alone has the power to change things, but
that doesn’t mean we as a generation can’t make a
difference. We can be more vocal, active and open than
our parents were. And less accepting of violence. Like it
or not 247 Girls, we are the future mothers, nurturers and
leaders of this country. We need to be clear that it’s our
problem too and step up to the mark now. We need to
speak up and let others know how strongly we feel.

There is no quick fix or simple solution to this problem, but let’s start by making a pact that WE won’t allow our children to grow up in a world where Nia’s story becomes commonplace.

At 247 Girl, we don’t want to remember Nia as the baby in the dryer. We want to dignify her memory and make sure she becomes NIA, the little girl who didn’t die in vain. The one who shocked New Zealanders into facing up to a very real problem that won’t go away by political talk, huis and lenient laws for child-torturers. That’s the least we can do for her.

Rest in peace, Nia.