Apr 11, 2013

Posted by in Issue of the Day, Social comment | 0 Comments

The vexed and vexing issue of child abuse

There is a lot of wickedness in the world and many of the things we encounter in the news are simply appalling. But child abuse ranks up there as something that simply should not happen in a civilised society. As we know, though, it does and its prevalence is a damning indictment of contemporary values.

It is disturbing, too, to realise that many people are abusing the whole issue of child abuse. This is brought to light by new statistics showing that there are five times as many allegations of abuse made in Australia as there are actual substantiated claims.

In one sense, this suggests that people are being overly zealous in reporting suspected abuse and it is difficult to argue against erring on the safe side. But a sickening realisation is that some people are lodging false complaints in a bid to damage others. Given that the slur of being the target of such an allegation is almost impossible to get rid of and the taint is so odious, there ought to be a special place in hell for anyone guilty of deliberately making such a false accusation.

The person highlighting this disparity, Professor Alan Hayes who is the Australian government’s point person on this issue, says there are other major societal issues arising from this trend of ‘over-reporting’. He calls this syndrome moral panic.

To put this into perspective, in 1989 there were around 40,000 notifications of potential child abuse. Twenty years later, that number has soared to nearly 300,000

One key consequence is that men are discouraged from working with children by a system that has become alarmist. Professor Hayes believes this is a key factor in the decline of men entering teaching and similar child-focused professions.

Interestingly, he suggests that – in the same way as we have offered an apology to indigenous people for usurping their land – we may have to in future offer an apology to those affected today by alarm around child abuse. We’ll see.

Regardless, we must maintain vigilance against any manifestation of child abuse. It simply demeans our humanity.

 

Acknowledgement: Patricia Karvelas, The Australian.

 

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