Posts Tagged violence

Rev Tom Innes: Decriminalising violence does not sit with Christian theology

August 4, 2009

On a Hiding to Nothing

Today (3 August) I received two pieces of mail in the post. The first was Build Magazine. The second was my voting paper for the so-called “so-called ‘anti-smacking’ law”. Seeing 89 glossy pages of engineering and building wisdom from the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) alongside my voting paper got me thinking about the differences and similarities between engineering buildings and engineering societies. Now, the the building of societies is something we all share in and the big question is towards what are we building? I suspect that much of the opposition to the section 59 amendment (2007) to the Crimes Act 1961 comes from the notion that such legislative changes are in fact “Social Engineering” (or “PC”).

The “anti PC” argument goes that just changing the words does not change anything as we all know what we mean. Call a spade a spade. The counter argument is that there is a relationship between reality and the words we use to describe that reality. By changing the words we reshape the reality. Funny that the people who say the words don’t matter get so steamed up when the words are changed! This suggests to me that the words do matter. Anyone who has read Genesis might suspect that the spoken word is indeed reality-shaping. In Chapter 1 it is the word of God that brings the world into being. In Chapter 2 the naming of the animals and the spoken response of the man to the creation of the woman is fundamental to the relationship between humans with each other and the world around them.

So, what does it mean to rename “smacking” as “hitting” or to call either “criminal”? Quite a lot. Underneath the various arguments lies a profound two-fold question: What sort of world do we want to create and how do we want to relate to those with whom we share this world? Those of us who benefit from the way things are will probably opt for “smacking”, while the victims of violence or those who have to pick up the pieces will tend to go for “hitting”. Children will be pretty clear what they think is happening – if they are permitted to have an opinion.

We all know the referendum question is badly worded but for my money the decriminalisation of violence towards children does not sit with a theology that sees each person as unique and special and as the bearer of the image of God. I am going to vote “Yes” because I am only too well aware of the anger and violence that I am capable of and because I want to be a better person. To vote “Yes” is to say that violence towards children is not acceptable. It means setting ourselves the challenge of living up to our own word.

The Build Magazine cover is minimalist. It features the words “Product Substitution” and below that, “Corrosion”. The article on product substitution warns of the dangers of using inferior and fake products in place of the ones specified. Violence is never an adequate substitute for love. Jesus demonstrates the genuine article. The corrosion article reminds us that – for buildings as for cars – “rust never sleeps”. Corrosion is what we do to children when we resort to force, till one day we look down and find that we ourselves have slowly and silently been eaten away from the inside. A “Yes” vote BRANZ us as people who want to help stop the rot.

Tom Innes is Senior Ecumenical Chaplain at University of Canterbury

Nurses say that the Child Discipline Law is working and must be retained

August 2, 2009

nznoThe New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) is supportive of the current child protection legislation.

Chief executive officer, Geoff Annals, is frustrated by the referendum question. “There can be little doubt that a better worded question could have been asked. The issue is whether it should be lawful to use violence against children.”

“As an organisation of 43,000 health professionals and carers we are clear that any steps that can be taken to protect our children from violence should be. The evidence shows this is a law that is working and must be retained,” Annals said.

“New Zealand has a shameful record on child abuse. Clearly our culture needs to change to view violence, in any form, as unacceptable,” Annals said.

Four studies: smacking leads to sexual coersion and risky sex

April 22, 2009

Dr Murray Straus is a Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, and a former president of the National Council on Family Relations.

In February 2008, he gave a presentation to the American Psychological Association Summit Conference on Violence and Abuse in Interpersonal Relationship entitled Corporal Punishment of Children and Sexual Behavior Problems: results from four studies.

The studies show some interesting yet frightening results about the effects of smacking children, including

  • The more smacking, the more antisocial behaviour two years later
  • Smacking is related to physical aggression, psychological aggression, and property crimes
  • Corporal punishment before age 12 significantly increases the probability of future verbal and physical sexual coersion
  • Corporal punishment as a child significantly increases the probability of risky sex (insisting on sex without a condom and approval of violence)
  • The more corporal punishment as a child, the greater the probability of risky sex as an adult

Many people who condone smacking their children say that it should only be done lovingly, but Straus’s research shows that the link between corporal punishment and masochistic sex is greatest when the parents are warm and loving.

Straus’s presentation concludes with a suggestion that birth certificates should contain a warning:

Spanking has been shown to be dangerous to your child’s health and well being.

For more information, download the presentation.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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