Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Religiously Motivated Child Absue

This is an OLD post (about 5 years, now) that I pulled from the blog I kept back then.*  It's still, unfortunately, quite relevent.

[Trigger Warning: Descriptions of Child Abuse--ESPECIALLY in the linked articles.]

I strongly recommend giving at least a quick glance at the series dogemperor has put together over on DailyKos about religiously motivated child abuse (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  As someone who is a survivor** of this type of environment, I'm always amazed when people don't know about the culture of violence that many, many children are brought up in.  Like all survivors of child abuse, people who grow up in households with religious child abuse believe (for the most part) that what they went through is normal...and, worse than that, they believe the abuse is justified by being a Christian, that they deserved it.  If they are unable to get help and healing, they may start their own family believing that such abuse is the only way to truly raise good Christian children, and the cycle continues.

I think it is especially important for people to be aware of how isolated children in conservative Christian families can become.  Because parents are justifiably afraid that teachers and doctors will report child abuse (or, as these folks call it, "discipline"), kids are pulled out of public and even private schools, and sent to pediatricians who are dominionist Christians.  While my parents weren't so extreme, many children I went to church with never encountered a non-Christian in a meaningful way.  They were homeschooled, played sports with Christian groups, went to church (and were pulled out of the youth group when non-Christian kids began to attend), were not allowed to participate in outreach activities, only saw Christian doctors, and were always under the watchful eye of their parents or a trusted, like-minded adult. 

So, folks, when you see your neighbor abusing his or her child, don't assume that a trusted adult will catch it.  For many kids, that may be the case: they'll see teachers, doctors, and coaches, all of whom are mandatory reporters (though there are news reports every day about how these stop-gap messures fail).   Children raised in these very conservative, quiverfull-type homes, may never see an adult they can trust.  Call in suspected abuse.  You can do it anonymously.  Better safe than sorry, and while a visit from a social worker can suck, annoying an innocent parent is a hell of a lot better than allowing a guilty parent to continue to torture their child in the name of God.

And that's today's PSA.

*  I changed this a bit in the repost.  I wrote it back in 2007, when I was still a very committed Christian.  At the time, I took great pains to say that this type of abuse is against Christian values, and no true Christian would abuse their child like that.  I've since changed my opinion on this, and while their brand of Christianity still seems like a perversion of the faith I was brought up in, I realize that they have just as much biblical justification for thier position as I ever did, such behavior is perfectly in line with a certain type of Christianity. 

** My parents (my father especially) were quite abusive during my early years.  I don't think they were abusive out of malice, but out of ignorance.  They followed books like "Dare to Discipline" and the advice of older Christians who insisted that beating us would make us obedient kids.  (Honestly, if anything I would say that it made us a lot angrier.)  We were hit with metal spoons, slapped, pinched, forced to stand straight up (not leaning against a wall) for over an hour (and spanked if we leaned or sat down), left in dark rooms, and humiliated in public (that was and remains a favorite tool for dominionist Christians in like-minded settings...public humiliation and spanking of children in church is not uncommon). 

My mother, around the time I was eight or nine, realized that what she was doing was wrong, and stopped. She said that it was because she heard God telling her that their behavior was wrong.  It was a brave step: she ignored the advice of everyone around her (including the pastor) to do what she felt was right.  (Of course, I think that "still small voice" was her innate empathy and consience rather than the voice of God, but that's not an argument I can win.)  She's since apologized to me, and that relationship has been more than healed.  I recognize that I'm lucky in that respect.  My father, likewise, stopped his abuse.  He had an anger management problem (like a lot of cops) and was also raised in a very physically abusive environment (his mother used to hold his head under the bath water if he mis-behaved, among other things).  So he took a step back from being the disciplinarian until he got that under control.  My parents got a lot of flack because my dad didn't take the active roll in discipline, which other church members considered to be his job as the spiritual leader of the family.  But he couldn't trust himself to discipline without it becoming abuse, so he did the right thing by stopping.  By the time my youngest brother came along, my parents no longer used physical discipline at all, having discovered that other ways of parenting worked much better, and didn't violate their ethics. (Or, my mom would say, they started following God's direction in discipline. BLECH.)

I've forgiven both my parents, and I have a good relationship with them, but some scars can never be erased, and that's why I'm so passionate about this issue.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I can relate to so much here, even though it sounds like you had a harder time than I did. Thank you for writing.