Culture and other factors in abuse

Apart from institutional abuse, we may not be aware of culturally condoned abuse. Ritualistic or satanic physical abuse (and sexual abuse) is rarely mentioned nowadays. Brian Corby in his excellent blog, Child Abuse towards a knowledge base, briefly mentions how this abuse occurred in the US and Britain in the 1980s. There is no reason to believe that this horror has ceased.
The culture in some countries promotes particular types of ghastly physical abuse on children. Female genital mutilation is a particularly gruesome type, and can be classed as sexual abuse as well. It is a worldwide phenomenon, but the practise is mainly associated with Africa and Asia. About 130 million women have been subjected to this abomination, which involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to female genital organs. Sometimes elderly women in the bush perform this procedure, without using anaesthetics or any sterile measures. It has to be reversed prior to labour, to allow delivery of a baby. It is outlawed in many countries.
In the interests of protecting our children, it is vital for us to realise that most child abuse takes place in the child’s home. Child abuse in the home is grossly underreported in developed countries, and even more so in underdeveloped countries. In the United States, it is reckoned that only one third of abuse cases are reported. Parents are hardly likely to self-report as child abusers, and children are too young, too innocent and too fearful to take action. In the United States, parents were the abusers in 77% of the confirmed cases of the one million child victims in 1996, and other relatives accounted for 11%.
Considering our duty as parents to protect and nurture our children, we may wonder why this happens. There is much research to answer this. We know, for example, that there is a connection between child abuse and parents with psychological or psychiatric problems; and that social stress, social isolation, low community involvement, and family structure are factors in child abuse. More fundamentally, there is evidence that violence is often transmitted through generations, in which case child victims learn that abuse is normal. It is part of their malformation, and they carry a painful personal legacy, which will be looked at later in this chapter. For a minority, this legacy may be the formation of the abusive personality.
We may also wonder whether fathers or mothers are more likely to abuse their children. There is considerable confusion about this. Some studies in the United States indicate that fathers are the main abusers, while others show that 40% of child victims were abused by their mothers acting alone, 18% by fathers alone, and 17% by both parents. Brian Corby, however, asserts that the father is more likely to abuse than the mother is.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

Posted in abuse, Child Abuse