fredag 15 juni 2007

Spanking children as sexual abuse/aga av barn som sexuellt övergrepp...

Found a Readers’ letter on Millers web yesterday "Spanking as sexual abuse" which made me visit the suggested site on "Spanking Can Be Sexual Abuse". There I found a text in Swedish "Aga av barn som sexuellt övergrepp", written by a researcher in Finland Leila Holm with an English version too "Child-spanking as Sexual Abuse". I came to think “But hasn’t Ingeborg Bosch written about similar things?”, about physical integrity, and yes, she has.

I would like to refer to both these two authors and what they have written… What Ingeborg writes in a separate blog post…

First the text by Leila Holm: she writes about the sexualised flogging or caning (sexualiserad aga in Swedish). There is a mode of expression (talesätt) here that says “the ones we love, we chasten” (den man älskar agar man).

Save the Children-English site (Rädda barnens hemsida på svenska) defines physical violence/punishment as follows (see "What we think about corporal punishment"):

Beating or physical punishment means the use of physical force to cause pain or discomfort as a means of disciplining, controlling and changing a child's behaviour in order to bring the child up.

Physical pain can be caused in many different ways, for example by hitting the child with an open hand, pinching or by pulling the hair, beating with a cane or another object.

We believe that psychological punishment can be as harmful as physical. It is also clear that physical punishment always contains a portion of emotional pain. Corporal punishment means that the child is humiliated. Corporal punishment is an assault on the child's personal integrity. Corporal punishment strengthens the child's feeling of inferiority.”

I have a near relative who got her hair pulled by her mother and was furiously beaten at least once by her father, as four year old, when she and an even younger friend had crushed the car lights on a car wreck… This occurred round 1930…

Came to think about one way of minimizing what happened (and thus to avoid experiencing the painful truth, and in fact how betrayed you got and the fact that this in fact was anything but love, but maybe the child didn't deserve love? An ironical wonder/för att sålunda undvika att uppleva den smärtsamma sanningen och hur sviken du blev och faktumet att detta faktiskt var allt annat än att visa kärlek. Fast barnet kanske inte förtjänade kärlek – en ironisk undran) is to resort to Denial (förnekande av sanningen, för att den gör så ont/denial of the truth because it hurts too much), as for instance by

minimizing (att bagatellisera): you know what happened but you see it as having less of an impact than it did. You say things like

“Other people had it a lot worse than I did”, I know he (or she or they)… but it only happened sometimes”, “I never paid any attention to it”, It didn’t really bother me”, “I was never at home, so it didn’t affect me”.

Resisting (att göra motstånd): you know what happened but you believe it is irrelevant to your adult life. You are apt (benägen) to say things like

”It was a long time ago”, “That was then, this is now”, “I came to terms with it (or made peace with them) a long time ago”, I’ve known it for years; I need to get on with my life now”, “I don’t’ have anything to do with them”, “That’s just how it was”.

Omitting/blocking (att utelämna eller blockera): you know only about the pleasant parts of childhood, or you remember little or nothing. You are likely to say

“I can’t remember anything”, “I don’t remember anything being wrong”, “I had a wonderful childhood, we went on trips, etc.”.

Balancing (att uppväga/balansera): you know what happened but you think that the ‘good’ balanced it out. You say

“I know he (or she or they)… But… I turned out OK”; “It made me strong (did me good)”, “We got everything we needed”, “I (or we) knew they loved me (or us)”, “It built character”, “But they’re good people”.

Excusing/justifying (att urskulda eller försvara): you admit the past but find rationales for what happened. You say

“I (or we) deserved it”, “Everyone did it in those days”, It was all he (or she or they) knew), “We knew they loved us, they just couldn’t show it”, “They did the best they could”.

I needed to see it in print that Saving the Children (Rädda barnen) defines pulling a child’s hair without any question as violence! It is violence and nothing else!!!

If we were capable of seeing it from a child’s perspective we would understand that it doesn’t matter what time these things happened in or what circumstances (in what class or whatever), when the abuse was committed. It was abuse, frankly and straight. And now as adults we should be able to afford expressing things by their real names I think.

The corporal punishment ban came 1979 in Sweden, after this the other Nordic countries followed, so these things have been banned for more than 20 years in our countries, and Holm thinks this has influenced our views on these things,

“The 20 ‘spank-free’ years*) we have had in the Nordic countries have changed our way of looking at these things, and already now it is hard to understand the past ways of thinking, but such thinking is the starting-point when dealing with issues of child abuse in countries which have not yet abolished spanking”

Holm writes.

*) My comment: In Sweden 28 spank-free years. But spanking in schools has been forbidden even longer, it didn’t exist when I started school. And we had no religious schools were this sort of abuse could be covered up hypocritically either, as I think it was in many other countries and still is today, as for instance in US, England, Ireland etc.? But now we have got and are getting even more religious schools here, and spanking has probably not been eradicated in families (utrotat) but still exist, though hidden, and maybe much hidden. That it still exists in different forms, is this explanation for phenomena we see around and meet here and there I have come to wonder?

“In other countries, such as Great Britain, France and the United States, spanking is still allowed, and school spanking is common in about half of the American states”
Holm writes further.

In the chapter “Sexualized Violence” she writes:

“That bottom-smacking can have sexual implications and overtones are for most people not news. The fact that a simple Internet search for the term "spanking: yields a mixed result of pornographic and factual web pages says a lot. Some of the sources that I have used in this essay had to be ordered from publishing companies that also publish so-called flagellant literature. The fact that spanking traditions have evolved over extended periods of time confers distinct features on contemporary sexualized punishment scenarios. Thus, sexualized violence here means corporal punishment with sexual overtones.”

Holm writes further in the chapter “Spanking as sexual abuse”:

“Those who have read the classic literature within the fields of Pedagogy and Childhood History know that the child’s life has often been filled with violence in the form of corporal punishment, both at home and at school. While some countries, such as France, abolished corporal punishment in schools early on, some countries developed sophisticated punishment rituals that came to play a major role in the development of the child’s psychosexual identity. Examples of such countries are Germany, the United States and Great Britain. These rituals became eroticised”.

“…we can conclude that the corporal punishments in school and in homes for centuries did not take the child’s sexual [and physical and thus also psychological, mental, as body and soul can’t be separated?] integrity into consideration.”

And according to Holm it looks like

“…boys are in a greater risk of developing a masochistic personality than are girls”.

Why is that? Because boys are treated differently? Because different things are allowed for boys and other for girls? Boys and girls are allowed different expressions of problems with maybe the same origins and roots?? In a similar manner as there doesn’t exist female serial killers (Pincus)? Bosch writes that men and women tend to use different defenses (because of different permissions and demands on boys and girls), and the ones men use are more violent in nature (maybe I will come back to this).

It seems as in Great Britain for instance

“it is not uncommon of parents to use the cane, especially on their sons
(see chapter “The Ritualized Punishment”).

Now, what drives these men?
As early as the 16th century, the Marquis de Sade wrote about teachers opening schools so that they could satisfy their sexual urges by beating children as they pleased. Gibson and other researchers state that these adults often are driven by sexual desires, consciously or unconsciously”.

“…the punishing men in this case are seeking sexual satisfaction is being reforced by the projection of the personal desire by the phrase ‘I am doing this for your own good’ [jag gör det här för ditt eget bästa, projicerande sitt eget behov av makt och att förnedra ett barn/projecting his/her own need of power and of causing humiliation to a child. The child in question should be furious, and yes, some children become, which Holm writes about. She thinks these children have been raised with less of these punishments at home]”.

“Shame is also a big part of the punishments that are being given to children by parents, at home. Charles tells of girls in their teen years who are being forced to undress completely before their fathers. In some cases the children are forced to wear diapers, to stand naked in a corner, or as Gibson describes it, are being humiliated and disgraced /…/ In this way, child-rearing manuals that encourage parents to hit their children often serve as pornography for people who become sexually excited by discipline (masochists and sadists). Often, these punishment manuals bear forewords written by priests or other men of the church, who are being perceived as authorities by the parents. Such urges used to be called perversions, but are now being called paraphilias”.

Holm writes about a phenomenon on this theme, flagellation.

The first who tried to describe flagellation as a sexually stimulating act appears to be the German doctor Johann Heinrich Meibom, who lived between the years 1590 and 1655. Meibom published his findings under the name De Flagorum Usu in Re Veneria & Lumborum Renumque Officio, which was later translated into English under the title On the Use of Rods in Veneral Matters and in the Office of the Loins and Reins /…/ The gospel of Meibom was that lashes from the birch rod or the whip could stimulate a man to erection. Flagellation was thus in Meibom’s eyes a universal remedy for impotence. Already here one can clearly see a connection being made between male impotence and sadomasochism, if only in another context /…/ Today we know that this is not the case [my italics]”.

“Now the public started to seriously reflect upon the sexual implications of the spanking and beating of schoolboys, which during those times consisted of brutal blows of birch rods on the boy’s naked buttocks, often resulting in bloody wounds.”

And quite horrible but Holm writes in the chapter “Research After Freud” that

“Even today some 94 per cent of American toddlers [in the Swedish text it stand two-year-old kids! Thus they are only two years!!! Oh, I think this is horrible! Quite horrible] are being spanked on regular basis”.

In the chapter “Attitudes Towards Spanking – Opinions for and Against”:

“…the most common defenses of spanking, and Biblical interpretation is an important factor in these defenses. He claims that the consequences of a strict father-image is an equally strict God-image. When the child grows up, this God-image justifies continual abuse of his or her own children. In the mind of the child, he or she is naughty and only worth loving after the punishment has been taken [my italics]”.

This I thought was very interesting about “Spanking and Poor Self esteem” in the chapter “The Consequences of the Abuse”:

“…the dynamics in families who use physical violence. Hite discovered early on that it was very hard for the interviewees to talk about how they were beaten as children and about the emotions these memories awoke in them. They often speak of themselves in degrading terms and thus show signs of poor self-esteem and shame."
So how is it with this inherited low self esteem? I ask quite ironically… Because this is what I am raised to believe in…

Further in this chapter:

“’Why didn’t you experience anger? – Probably because one cannot afford to get angry under such circumstances. After the punishment the child is expected to apologize, it is the child who is in the wrong. The child may not show anger towards the parent, the child may not morally condemn the parents. The child must only love and obey’.

The child is forbidden to act and react in a proper way in these situations. The child cannot defend itself and often the child hears that the punishment will be harsher if the child tries to strike back or refuses to lay still.”

And something that stood in the Swedish version but not the English (??) was that

“This can lead to that the individual get difficulties to now the boundaries for her/his own body, what it can stand or how to best protect it. You can simply said lack the ability to avoid danger and aren’t capable of realizing that you have the right to protect your body against danger [or realize what is actually dangerous and what isn’t. See Freyd about willingness to trust]. Thus young girls which has been beaten by her parents are at risk of landing in destructive relations as adult and sees submission as a virtue (dygd) rather than a danger for her own health.”

Holm writes:

“Charles speaks of bottom-spanking as damaging to the child’s self-image and its future safety”.

And further:

“Moral sadomasochism, according to Fenichel, consists of an extreme submissive behaviour, among both women and men. Freud also talked about such behaviour, where individuals allowed themselves to be totally consumed by their partner in such a way that they ceased to exist for their own sake and completely dissolved their own personality”.

She also writes about a sense of having been raped when she relates a story about a teenager being spanked at her bottom by a male teacher at school lying on his desk with her legs wide apart…

And there exists other sorts of rapes too? Sexual, physical and emotional/psychic…

Jean Jenson writes in her book about how Pia Mellody views violations (kränkningar in Swedish)… This opened my eyes for what violations actually are for a small child, and that it isn't only the most obvious or severe abuse that is harmful and causes problems, long lasting and for the future individuals whole life… For its feeling, thought, needs… In a totally dependent state and situation. And what this dependence means for how the child experience the whole, which we have forgot and have no access to mostly, because we in turn are damaged…

And I think that even if the woman’s child related to above whose mother pulled her children’s hair and whose father beat her up furiously doesn’t necessary have to do exactly this to her children, it can take other forms, if she hasn’t got opportunities to process it (or even herself questioned anything)…

It can become covered up in a wide variety of other expressions, subtler? Maybe even more hidden? And under the cover of a mother that loves her children and does everything for them and sacrifices herself totally for them, which all involved are convinced about is the truth. Even the mother herself. Unaware of what is driving her?? But this is no excuse, and refusal to see the truth doesn’t help anybody… And the denied truth will always stand as a wall (maybe entirely invisible and unconscious, because how does anyone know of things they have never experienced consciously, but unconsciously)… Keeping all family members apart (without anyone being aware of it, believing it is the opposite, and what does all this repressed cause in the relations?), though maybe extremely tied up, strangely enough, and maybe seeming contradictory…

And this all causes life long damage if it isn't processed to a certain degree... See earlier blog post about Freyd "Long-Lasting Damage" .

But as Freyd writes "As in damaged or disengaged trust mechanisms, I think damaged or disengaged CSDMs can be healed effectively with appropriate help.”

Tillägg: Vad är aga enligt Rädda barnen, den svenska hemsidan:

"Vad är aga?
Aga eller fysisk bestraffning innebär användandet av fysisk styrka för att orsaka smärta eller obehag i syfte att disciplinera, kontrollera och ändra ett barns beteende i uppfostringssyfte.

Fysisk smärta kan framkallas på olika sätt, till exempel genom att slå barnet med öppen hand, nypas eller dra i håret, slå med käpp eller annat föremål.

Psykiska bestraffningar kan vara lika skadliga som de fysiska. Det är också klart att fysiska bestraffningar alltid innehåller drag av känslomässig smärta. Aga innebär att barnet förödmjukas. Aga är ett angrepp på barnets personliga integritet. Agan förstärker barnets känsla av underlägsenhet. Rädda Barnen anser därför att alla insatser och åtgärder för att få slut på fysiska bestraffningar också måste syfta till att motverka andra former av förödmjukande och nedvärderande behandling."

Addition: corporal punishment is totally forbidden in law in Austria, Bulgaria Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, Sweden and Ukraine.

Holm writes in the last chapter
"Conclusions" about "attempts to make it more tangible, by dividing the countries of the world into five different categories",
where the last and fifth category is
"Countries where corporal punishment used to be banned but is now reintroduced or in the process of being reintroduced".
and that
"Number 5 is especially disturbing: countries such as Thailand have reintroduced corporal punishment on their agenda, and certain states in the U.S. are discussing the same thing. With this kept in mind, and with the knowledge that violence breeds violence, we get a pretty grim picture of the future."
Yes, I really agree!!
She adds:
"Hard work is needed to change attitudes, for as long as general society's attitudes toward corporal punishment and other forms of child abuse are positive or of a laissez-faire type, legislation will not have a big impact. The Nordic countries are perfect examples of how changes also in attitude may lead to fewer cases of abuse."

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