*trigger warning – discussion of rape and other violence*
I have this idea. I’m not sure if it would work, or even be possible, but I’d like to try it out – sadly control groups and experimental groups are lacking.
A little background might help I guess, because what I’m asking for is people’s opinions and ideas as to whether my idea is feasible, whether they’ve seen anything else similar anywhere else, and overall whether I should push this as a form of community engagement.
I’m a member of a polyamorous community in Victoria (Australia). There has been a lot of discussion recently about how to ensure that the community remains safe and what (if any) role the committee of the incorporated organisation play in that. There is clearly a desire for clarity around the committee’s role and what the community can expect – but this isn’t the discussion I want here, this discussion is for my idea of creating a safer community.
If the leaders of a community (whether elected official leaders or other identified leaders) expressed clear opposition to unsafe behaviours and encouraged the community to openly and safely discuss how those unsafe behaviours have affected them personally (with no mention of perpetrators) in their lives, would that create a community were those who engaged in those behaviours would not feel welcome?
That’s nice and complicated, let me break it down to a specific example. If the committee/leaders stated that rape and other sexual crimes are behaviours that are not tolerated in the poly community, and the community was encouraged to have ongoing discussions regarding the effect that rape has had on their lives, without naming he perpetrator because this is the space for those who have experienced rape or other sex crimes, would those who believe that rape is no big deal have their minds changed, and would those who have raped or who will rape be less likely to remain in the community? Could a community be built that does not blame victims for the crimes against them but instead supports them and talks about the damage that silence and victim blaming causes?
We don’t talk about violence against others nearly often enough in the community spaces I inhabit. We do not express our distaste, our displeasure, our repulsion, our abhorrence against what is done by some to others. This culture of silence often means it is easy for people to be unaware of the extent of the harm that violence causes, and also how wide-spread some forms of violence are. If those of my community, who evidently felt safe to do so, stood up and told our stories of violence, those who don’t know would most likely be shocked at how common such things are. I’d want the leaders (elected or generally respected) to be very clear that no one invites crimes to be committed against them and that any form of victim blaming would not be tolerated.
I feel, in an ideal world, that this could work, that a community could start to talk about the harm that violence causes, and make it a very unwelcome environment for those individuals that participate in forms of violence against others – because their viewpoints that their behaviour is ok would be challenged by people who think it is not.
I’d love other opinions on this however.
*trigger warning – this post discusses violence to children*
Another day, another child dies – and in the grand scheme of things not very noticeable given that 16,000 children die (on average) each day around the globe each day. This child however was fortunate and was born in a Westernised nation (Australia), had survived bone cancer (losing a leg and perhaps her hearing – the media is unclear as to whether she was hearing impaired before cancer or not), and moved with her dad to the US when he remarried.
What is currently known is that she is missing, presumed dead and her step-mother has been listed as a person of interest in her disappearance/death. The report in The Age quotes relatives and neighbours and their statements do not paint a pretty picture.
Relatives of a missing 10-year-old Australian girl, missing feared murdered in the US state of North Carolina, have described the child’s life as miserable, saying she was locked in her room for most of the day and was punished over little things.
“I just think this was something for a long time that we knew was going to happen, everybody that was close to the family,” relative Brittany Bentley said on CBS’ Early Show on Tuesday.
Bentley, who is married to Elisa Baker’s nephew, said she would have Zahra over for weekends and the girl would get mad when it was time to return home.
Zahra “was locked in her room, allowed five minutes out a day to eat, that was it”, Bentley said.
“She was beat almost every time I was over there for just the smallest things. Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on Zahra, things the kid didn’t deserve. She just had a horrible home life.”
“There were warning signs along the way, but you never want to think the worst,” said former neighbour Kayla Rotenberry.
Rotenberry, the former neighbour, said she and her fiance were good friends with the Bakers when they lived in the nearby town of Sawmills. About six months ago she noticed that Elisa Baker’s hand was swollen, Rotenberry said.
“She told me that she was trying to spank Zahra, but hit her on her prosthetic leg,” she said.
Another former neighbour, Brandy Stapleton, 22, of Lenoir, said that Elisa Baker told her the same story about how she injured her hand.
“She wasn’t the person everyone thought she was.”
I understand, generally, people’s unwillingness to get involved, the whole “not my problem” thing, but in this case, had the neighbours or relatives who had witnessed or known about the abuse visited upon Zahra reported it to the authorities she may still be alive. There have been numerous recent cases of children going missing, presumed dead where it is possible that someone reporting their concerns may have saved their life. Overstretched child protection services do not help the problem – and governments need to move on providing well supported, trained and appropriate staff to assist vulnerable citizens.
This article really touched a nerve for me because my husband has shared his horror stories with me of physical abuse from his father that were known about by other family members and by neighbours, and no one did anything. He was (relatively) lucky in that he survived his childhood and escaped. But, he or his siblings might not have been so lucky through no fault of their own.
If you know or strongly suspect that a child is being abused, please report it to the relevant authorities.