Friday, 30 May 2014

Emotional abuse

Why is it so necessary to be suspicious of stories such as this from the BBC?

The number of child emotional abuse cases referred to police and children's services by the NSPCC has risen by 47% in a year, the charity has said.

Its helpline received about 8,000 calls in 2013-14 about such non-physical cruelty, and 5,354 were thought serious enough to merit further inquires.

Ministers are seeking to update laws on emotional abuse in England and Wales. 

Or see the idea of a "Cinderella Law" from charity Action for Children.
Or the government's 97-page guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Now obviously children can be and are subject to emotional abuse, as they probably will be from time to time throughout their lives. As ever there are questions of degree, with horror stories at one end and a mountain of trivia at the other. So not necessarily an issue to take lightly, but consider the meme being promoted here - the one Larkin made so popular. 

This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
Philip Larkin (1971)

Man hands on misery to man. Well Larkin certainly did his best. This grotesque meme fits so happily with Orwellian political trends, with our insane tendency to exaggerate official competence, to decry the essential role of personal responsibility. 

So with ghastly inevitability it will be used to screw up the emotional bonds between parents and children, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, teachers and pupils and anyone else unwary enough to be caught in the sanctimonious net. 

Unwary - not a good thing to be is it? We have to wary - more so as time goes by. So how big is the net likely to grow? Shouting at a rowdy class to get some attention? Being loudly and momentarily honest about a child's bad behaviour? Inadvertently swearing in front of a child?

What we know is that there will be stories where insanely pedantic officials destroy the lives of decent adults. Crazy court cases which should never have been. Absurd sentences where courts stick to the letter of bad laws. We know it because we've seen it before, because we know we'll see it again. 

So who is being abused here? Who is in the firing line?


Sam Vega said...

I work in Further Education, and "Safeguarding" has now become the new religion, trumping even the previous deity of E&D. Saying that something is a "safeguarding issue" guarantees it going to the top of the agenda, and there is even a special team of twenty-something girls with worldly-wise expressions and need-to-know mentalities who patrol the college and disrupt business in the interests of safeguarding.

Like E&D,there is a statutory duty on public bodies, so these are jobs for life until some brave government decides it is actually in favour of the un-nameable.

Demetrius said...

Around fifty years ago for one reason or another I was around Hull Uni' where Phil was Librarian. For some reason one of his obsessions was car parking. It was the considered opinion of very many of the academics that he had missed his true calling of car parking attendant, these days perhaps traffic warden

A K Haart said...

Sam - does education ever climb to the top of the agenda? I'm sure it's the jobs for life aspect that drives these things.

I saw it in my own field. As things became more bureaucratic, the environment slipped down the agenda.

Demetrius - interesting. He could have given us a much more poetic insight into the world of the jobsworth.