Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fuel prices more worrying than child abuse

Child abuse victim, Masha High petrol prices are more of a concern for many Australians than child abuse, reports the ABC today (and I stole my headline from the article). Is it a surprise? It really depends on how the question was asked.

If you asked me "are you more worried about high petrol prices or child abuse?" I might instinctively say "petrol prices". I drive a car, don't have kids, have no exposure to child abuse. When I think hard I can recall my mum speaking in hushed tones about the topic with regard to another child attending the same school as us, but apart from that the issue simply hasn't crossed my path. So I'm hardly going to answer "actually, I'm more worried about child abuse than petrol prices". It would almost be a strange thing to say.

However, if you asked me "would you prefer 15 million dollars of the federal budget to be devoted to combating child abuse or 15 million dollars to be devoted to taking the sting out of rising oil prices?" I would much prefer it be spent on the former.

According to the same survey reported by ABC:
It also shows that 31 per cent would not believe a child if they said they were being abused and 16 per cent did not know if having sex with a 14-year-old person was sexual abuse.
Would you believe a child if they said they were being abused? What about the second question? Would you answer it correctly? Obviously there is a serious need out there for better education on the topic of child abuse!

Since we only just moved into our new office space this week, last week I had to work from home all week, while the move and renovations took place. So I was there when housemate #1 came home to eat lunch and was watching Oprah. The story was of a Russian girl – Masha – on the show she looked like she is in her early teens now. Her mother in Russia was mentally ill or something and tried to kill her. Her father was either dead or out of the picture so she went to an orphanage. At this point she was surely severely traumatised and vulnerable. But it got worse. At age 5, an American man came to adopt her – as if the fact the guy was single shouldn't start to raise alarm bells! She was sexually, physically and psychologically abused regularly until she was 11 or so and the FBI took the guy to prison. (I found a link to the story).

The point made by Oprah was that not one social worker had come to visit and check on the girl in those whole 5-6 years – even though he was a single "parent" and she an "adoptee"! The guy was only discovered by the FBI because he was trading kiddie porn online. This isn't Garry Glitter in Vietnam; this is in the US where human rights are apparently valued so much that it's unconstitutional to enforce the use of seatbelts! If this kind of thing can happen in the US for six years unchecked then I'm sure it is happening here too in Adelaide. And the stats testify to it.

It's probably time we stopped worrying about petrol prices and did start to worry more about protecting children, the most vulnerable people in society. It's one thing to say "oh these guys are sick, the scum of the earth", but it's probably not enough. In particular, the 31% of us who wouldn't believe a child who said he/she was being abused should wake up! I'm sure some minority of kids do make things up, but let's leave it to the child psychologist or social worker to determine if that's the case.

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Blogger stephenliveshere said...

Great commentary on this story!
I totally agree: We don't have kids, and our car has more money poured into it than anything else (except internet access), so I have a similar story to yours.
I also totally agree that any child's accusaion should be believed initially believed until proven otherwise.

The unfortunate thing is that we live in a time when children have a greater access to mediums (internet, television, etc) that shows them how to lie effectively about this issue.

One would hope that successful parenting teaches a young mind that lieing about these abuses only makes it more difficult to determine the real from the faked cases.

BTW, In case you are wondering, I found your site through AdelaideIndex.com.
Keep up the great storys. I will be back to read more...

April 19, 2006 8:06 pm  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks Stephen... It's such a nasty kind of topic that I guess it is hard to comment on!

I agree with you that kids can learn to lie very effectively. But on the whole I don't think they can lie as well as me :) or any adult for that matter... There are ways to easily check if a kid is obviously lying, but just because they are telling you they've been abused doesn't mean they are "obviously lying". In fact the opposite seems more likely. It's just that it's so hard to believe that someone could abuse a kid that we as adults don't want to believe it I guess.

April 25, 2006 12:43 pm  

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