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The Juvenists

June 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

Juvenists Blog for 20 June 2013

Do you avoid hearing or reading accounts of childhood trauma caused by abuse or neglect?

In the last couple of weeks we’ve run the ‘Am I a Juvenist?’ quiz and given you the answers to it. As we said, it was completely non-scientific and designed only as food for thought.

We also mentioned that I’d be discussing some of the questions in the future. That’s because they are on topics that arise, often quite frequently, and because you might appreciate some clarification and discussion on them. The first question, above, is a case in point.

If you’re a professional working with child abuse you probably often meet people outside that field who say things like: ‘Oh, I couldn’t work in child abuse, it would be too upsetting’. I’ve certainly had many such responses and at times have wondered whether they imagine I’m terribly hard-hearted, having been in the field for going on 30 years. But I’m really more inclined to think that the horrified response (hands up, fending it off) is an out clause on having to think about child abuse or do anything about it.

Of course, there are people who were traumatised by child abuse themselves as children and aren’t ready or able to face it. Others may feel guilt about their treatment of their own children and just can’t go there. And of course that sort of work isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are working in the social services and finding child abuse too yucky to think about, then you aren’t going to be able to reach out to those children. Are you? Will you be able to think about how it is for them, about their loneliness, fear and confusion, their individuality, courage and talents? Will you be able to listen to them, advocate for them, stand by them and prioritise them?

I’ve worked with child protection professionals whom, I’ve suspected, haven’t really faced the realities of child abuse or neglect and who instead tend to focus on the child’s mother or the internal workings of their agencies. It’s even possible for whole organisations to slip into denial of their responsibility to protect children. But let’s face it, have we as a society really faced the ugly truths of child abuse and family violence? Do we really embrace the needs of children in care, children in poverty or those living with family violence? Do these kids get our undivided attention? Or are they well hidden in front of us?

So, if you struggle with this one, you’re not alone. I’d suggest you just work on seeing child clients as equals, as fellow human or spirit beings. Ask them about themselves and what you can do for them and listen carefully and respectfully to what they have to say. And if this brings up lots of grief, horror or avoidance, then it’s probably something to work on in supervision or counselling.

Child abuse and neglect may be yucky to us, but to a child it’s a harsh reality threatening their safety and self esteem. They need to be able to rely on competent adults to recognise their plight and to respond quickly to make them safe and assist their recovery.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this question.

Deborah Yates

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Category: Juvenists