We first have to recognise it.
We have to name it.
We have to actively teach our children to fight it, to see it.
Only we aren't doing that.
All abuse is a continuum, I’ve said that before. The “difference” between smacking a child and legally recognised violence against a child is one of degrees. Intention, the amount of violence and the parent’s emotional state. These are the things that our society uses to judge whether it is abuse or “discipline”.
It used to be what we used to judge whether hitting your wife was abuse or “discipline”.
Thankfully, we eventually came to realise that women deserve to be treated as equal people, and we made laws that banned “spousal discipline”.
One day we will do the same in regards to children, as Switzerland and others have done before us. But when that time comes, I hope that we have learnt from our failures with women that you can not just put a piece of legislation in place to say that something that has been a cultural norm for centuries is now banned, and do nothing to address the culture that maintains, supports and legitimises it.
The last few years has brought to light the many many ways that our culture still conditions us to be blind to abuse when it involves women. Rape, consent, bodily autonomy, abuse, manipulation, coercion, power. These themes are being discussed over and over again in relation to childbirth, college life, women’s deaths, political funding etc etc.
Yet for all the discussion we aren’t getting very far.
Most likely because we are having these arguments with adults.
Adults who have already formulated their views, who are entrenched in the system of deny, brush off, minimise, shame, repeat. Adults who themselves have no true understanding of what healthy respectful treatment looks like.
Earlier today I shared this article.
It talks about how we need to be starting young, first crush young, in order to teach the future men and women of society what abuse actually looks like, sounds like, feels like.
I agree, but I think we need to start even younger.
To stop another generation from growing up believing that rape is only rape if it’s violent and involves a struggle, and probably happened in a dark alleyway with someone you don’t know. From believing that pedophiles are creepy looking guys with white vans who kidnap kids from parks, and not the best friend's father or teacher or neighbour or cousin you’ve known all your life and trust completely. From believing that domestic violence is only domestic violence if it’s an adult hitting another adult, not an adult hitting a child. From believing that domestic abuse is only domestic abuse if you have bruises to show for it. From believing that there is any such thing as “loving” punishment, believing that love and punishment could ever go together in a healthy relationship, we have to start by teaching them what healthy relationships and boundaries look like. We have to teach our children consent by advocating for them against great aunt Alice who insists on kissing them when they clearly don’t want to. We have to teach our kids boundaries by teaching them, not by punishing them when they inevitably fail. We have to teach our kids that they are worthy of love just for existing, and that they can’t earn someone’s love and attention via “good” behaviour or lose someone’s love via “bad” behaviour. Because that is not a healthy model. We have to teach our kids that saying “only joking” doesn’t make something a joke - if the person it’s aimed at doesn’t think it’s funny (truly think it's funny) then it’s bullying. Full stop. As they grow we need to give them examples of healthy romantic and sexual relationships.
All of these things we have to do very purposefully as parents because we have to counter the centuries of indoctrination our culture that allows us to no longer even see the warning signs of abuse, hell it no longer allows us to see abuse because it is normalised.
When millions of teenagers and adult women think that Edward Cullen and or Christian Gray are the perfect man, then we clearly have normalised abusive traits. In fact we haven’t just normalised them, we’ve romanticised them.
When every day on social media there are arguments that hitting a small child is a necessary part of parenting, sanctioned by god, and is loving discipline, that ignoring a child’s distress, lashing out at a child for their mistakes, isolating them, shaming them, destroying or removing their property, locking them up, coercing them, manipulating them with stickers and other pats on the head or making it all about you (how could you do this to me, i’m so ashamed for people to know I am your mother) is good parenting; when generation after generation minimise and support their own abuse; then we are clearly so so far removed from healthy parent-child relationships.
When women every day are belittled, bullied and abused by their “healthcare” providers, assumed to be incapable of making sound decisions because they are pregnant. We haven’t just pegged doctors as “someone with a medical degree” we have idolised them as infallible gods, and woe betide any woman who questions their authority. Do so only at risk of horizontal violence from thousands of women who would rather scapegoat each other, than consider that a woman should always have the right to bodily autonomy, and that no means no, be it in the bedroom or the labour ward.
When eighteen year old girls arrive for the start of university to groups of guys hollering at them with signs hanging from their buildings that sometimes literally threaten rape, when men are cleared of jail time and allowed to go back to college because they shouldn’t have to miss out “the college experience” despite the fact that they have raped someone, when the victims are constantly scrutinised for what they wore, where they were, how much they drank and their sexual history, we clearly place no value on women’s mental or physical health. In the real grown up world the same values clearly apply, otherwise we wouldn’t have governments who claim to care about domestic violence then cut funding left and right.
It’s never going to be enough to teach that rape, abuse, manipulation are bad.
The problem with fundamentalist Christian culture isn’t that it doesn’t teach rape is wrong, but that it doesn’t know what rape actually is.
Not quite: The problem with all culture isn’t that it doesn’t teach rape is wrong, but that it doesn’t know what rape actually is. It isn't that it doesn't teach that abuse is wrong, but that it doesn't know what abuse actually is. We don’t know what they actually are, because we are so far removed from healthy respectful relationships, be they between children, adult and child or adults. Be they romantic, familial, or work. We don’t know what they are because we only acknowledge them as “real” examples when they fit at the very end of a continuum.
In my mind, if it wasn’t violent or you didn’t cry for help, that wasn’t rape, that was fornication. If it was violent and you did cry out, it was still only rape if you didn’t happen to belong to your assailant (Deut. 22:23-24). Rape was a one-time thing, a life and death situation, not something that happens with people who love you, and certainly not from your own husband. Marital rape? No such thing!
It’s only domestic abuse if they hit you
It’s only child abuse if you leave bruises
It’s only medical abuse if you or your baby suffered from permanent physical harm and you can prove without a shadow of a doubt that there was no medical benefit to the doctor's actions.
It’s only stalking if he’s creepy and ugly or poor
It’s only neglect if you leave your kid locked in a cupboard with no food
It’s only a rape threat or a death threat if it was said in writing (but not online) in the context of anger (not as a “joke”) and there are witnesses.
It’s only _________ if ___________.
Real life algebra - stopping us from seeing the forest for the trees.
Hi I'm Nicole