Kerre Woodham: It's time to make a difference
5:00AM Sunday July 29, 2007
By Kerre Woodham
For all the criticism of John Howard, maybe we should be looking in our own backyard as yet another child is fighting for its life in Starship hospital.
The devoted mother is keeping a bedside vigil as the three-year-old is being treated for a brain bleed, and abdominal injuries so severe experienced police officers were left horrified.
Nice that the mother's nurturing instincts have kicked in. Better late than never, although from the child's point of view, it might have been nice if she'd noticed something was wrong three weeks ago, when it's believed the bashings started.
Neighbours reported on TV3 news that the little one was tied to the clothes line and spun until she flew off, that she was put in the drier and that she was used for wrestling practice by grown adults. Why these neighbours felt comfortable burbling away to the television reporter but couldn't summon the decency to phone the authorities is beyond me.
To paraphrase, it is necessary only for good-for-nothing gutless neighbours to do nothing for evil to triumph. And for the good people, those who do want to do something, who do want to make a difference, what can they do?
Most people become immune to news stories after a while. Emotional fatigue sets in and they find they simply can't summon the energy to care any more. Not when it comes to child abuse.
Despite the fact that there's an horrific, shocking story in the headlines every three months or so, the pain and the anger of the community is as intense and as white hot as it when the death of the last baby was reported, and the baby before that. It's expected this little one will recover - although what sort of life she can expect to have is doubtful. If she was a puppy found broken and battered, people would be lining up to adopt her and give her the sort of pampering and love that would go a long way to healing her after her dreadful start to life.
But she's not, so she'll probably be given back to her woefully inadequate mother and the misery will be perpetuated. And when it comes to drawing up New Zealand's 20 all-time most horrific child abuse cases, this wee girl probably won't feature.
Not when we've got Delcelia and Lillybing and James Whakaruru and Saliel and Olympia and the Kahui babies and most recently, Ngatikaura all vying for places.
And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. I didn't even have to Google. It's a national shame and one that we are all going to have to do something about. I don't see child abuse in my neighbourhood - where I live the little ones go to baby gym and Montessori and are warm dry and well-fed.
The toddlers in my street are contented, confident little souls - quite happy to chat away to neighbours and passers-by, secure in the knowledge that they are loved.
So I can't do any direct intervention. But I can support other initiatives, such as the KidsCan In Our Own Backyard campaign. By donating $10 a month, you can help feed the kids at school and help provide them with raincoats and shoes.
And don't even think of telling me it's the parents' job to be doing this for their own children, because you know and I know that there are a number of parents who are not doing it. And to deny the children basic rights to food and clothing because of the sins of the parents is just plain wrong.
I spoke to a man last night who'd been abused as a child - he said he came from a good home, a respectable home, but his childhood had been blighted by abuse. And it was the intervention of a teacher that saved him.
So schools are good places to pick up some of the kids most at risk and try to repair some of the damage. And it was great reading of all the local initiatives by Auckland schools in the NZ Herald this week. Here were principals, teachers and parents, who got off their butts and made things better for the kids in their care.
So we can do something. And perhaps there's more the Government can do. Maybe it is time to start looking at tying the DPB to some form of proficiency in parenting. Failure to perform would result in a voucher system and compulsory parenting classes. Maybe it's time to take the children out of dysfunctional families and put them somewhere where they're safe - either state-run institutions or with families who are crying out for the children they're unable to have. And women need to stop getting up the duff to losers and start using contraception and stop seeing their babies as a meal ticket.
I'm sick and tired of women playing the victim card, because ultimately, these stupid women are not the real victims - it's their kids who are.
I know these suggestions sound draconian and all very back to the future but for heaven's sake.
So many children are dying and left damaged for life that maybe coming down hard is the only way to stem the tide of violence.