CISOCA missed the point

On Sunday night, I saw a documentary on TVJ about child abuse.  Before this post goes any further I must state two things; 1) child abuse is the unwarranted injuring of a child or otherwise endangering of a child’s life.  And 2) I in no way condone or support child abuse.  Anyway, the documentary featured a single father from an inner city community talking about how he disciplines his son.  He related the story of how he was not in full custody of the child since birth and as a result was not active in instilling a sense of discipline in the child from an early age.  He said that the child’s mother and her family would leave his son at home alone and simply instruct him to stay in the house until they returned from work.  As a result the child spent most of his formative years without any form of discipline or structure from the adults in his life.  The father related his surprise and irritation at the fact that his child’s whereabouts were often unknown, and the offhand manner in which the child spoke to his mother and other female relatives.  He chalked this indiscipline up to the fact that there was no parental guidance being given to the child, and that he had no positive male role model to emulate.  When the child finally went to live with his father at the age of 11 he was disruptive and uncontrollable at school and was the bane of his teachers’ existence.  Now, this is where the plot thickens.  The father had a serious conversation with his son regarding his behavior, saying that, as a child about to enter high school, his actions would not be tolerated and he needs to get his act together.  It must be noted that the father had such conversations on several occasions with the boy, believing that he was  old enough to understand reason.  It is also important to note that the father’s first instinct was not to beat the child but to try to talk to him and reason with him.  Even though he tried to help the boy to the extent of getting him counseling, his behavior got worse.  It got to the point where the father had to be called into the boy’s school because of his transgressions.  The public, humiliating slap that the boy received was a culmination of his father’s anger and frustration at his behavior.  It also seemed to help, as the boy’s behavior and performance seemed to improve in that specific class.  However he continued to misbehave otherwise and fell in with bad company much to his father’s dismay.  Eventually after innumerable instances of misbehavior and lectures, the father could no longer tolerate the boy’s attitude and tied him to a post and beat him savagely.  This is where CISOCA comes in.
CISOCA, or the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse was featured on the documentary condemning the father’s disciplinary methods and calling it child abuse.  While I do agree that his beating the boy was a drastic measure, I sympathize with the father.  From his interview, the audience could tell that he was trying his best to provide structure and a chance for a better life to his son.  He was sending him to school, providing him with his basic needs, unlike many parents.  He also had tried to reason with the boy and help him, doing the best with the tools he had at hand, again, note that beating the son was not his first course of action.  Also, he did not beat the boy maliciously,without cause, or because it made him feel powerful.  He was frustrated and feeling that he had tried his best to go alternative routes resorted to beating to get his point across to the boy.  Now, CISOCA’s stance was that he should be locked up for child abuse, which is where they miss the point entirely.  First of all he isn’t beating the child on a regular basis and he is not doing it out of malice or ill intention for his son.  Secondly, with the resources and education level he has, he had actually tried his best to not resort to physical violence.  And finally, the child is not completely innocent in the situation, his actions were antisocial and disrespectful.  CISOCA  should therefore focus not on the imprisonment of the father but maybe focus their energy on giving him and his son counseling or a therapist so they can find an effective way to resolve the conflict.  Secondly,  emphasis should be placed on educating young people on alternative forms of conflict resolution so that they are better equipped to deal with similar situations when they become parents.  Finally, the child, though not innocent, should be viewed with a sympathetic attitude as his behavior could stem from a past childhood trauma.  That is why counseling or therapy are important steps to recovery for both the father and son.  For the father it will allow him to understand the cause of his son’s behavior and therefore attack the problem at the roots.  For the son, it will help him see the consequences of his actions and perhaps, if his behavior is a result of childhood traumas, he will eventually be able to come to terms with it.  Once again I must say that I don’t condone the father’s savage beating of his child but I don’t think he is unjustified in his actions.  Instead of being so eager to lock this man up, a man who was clearly trying his best to be a good parent and was using what he had available to him to cope with his son’s behavior, CISOCA should be more focused on the actual criminals who hurt children just for the power trip.  They are the ones who need to be locked up, the man in the documentary simply needs counseling.

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