In the week that former teacher James Parker was sentenced to preventive detention for his unchecked predations upon young boys in Northland, social development minister Paula Bennett announced tougher measures to combat child abuse.
Those policies that have drawn the most commentary and criticism relate to parents rather than paedophiles. Parents or caregivers who have seriously abused their kids will not automatically be allowed to have any more. And those who are suspected of being serious abusers will be banned from associating with any children, including their own.
In announcing these intended policies, Bennett rightly highlighted New Zealand’s appalling rates of child abuse. They are an enduring stain upon our country and particularly the Maori culture. Maori children are among the most endangered on the planet. In part, it is the ethnicity of the primary offenders and victims that has delayed proper government action. It is considered both uncultural and uncool to highlight Maori child abuse statistics, even though they are blindingly obvious.
Rightly, Bennett’s solution is universal. Stop habitual abusers having any more children and intervene swiftly where serious abuse is suspected, regardless of colour, culture or creed.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, it is two Maori women who are leading the resistance to Bennett’s overdue toughness – associate health minister Tariana Turia and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei. Their argument is that Maori parents will unduly suffer and Turei raises the additional spectre of Aboriginal adoption. In fact, Turei goes further than that. More Maori parents abuse their kids because they are poor, she contends. If we removed “poverty”, she contends, “we’d remove a huge stressor on families that is connected to increased rates of child maltreatment and neglect”.
Yep, if you’re on welfare – or poorly paid – then abusing your kids is a natural response.
Which is bollocks. Abusing your kids is a deeply unnatural and sick response, and most parents on benefits or the minimum wage, don’t abuse their children.
Absolutely. It is beyond unnatural. Most of us feel protective and get distressed when we see any child in distress – ever a total stranger. To allow, or even be responsible, for harming your own child is as unnatural as it gets.