How Can We Stop All The Abuse?


People get abused a lot.  More than anybody wants to believe and certainly more than anybody could ever justify as necessary.  Here are a few facts.  Yes, facts.

child abuse1.  My own brother of blessed memory, above average IQ and (later, I believe to be accurate) diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, did not tell me until eight years afterward that as a student in a school for the emotionally disturbed, with an older headmistress who was renowned for her knowledgeable treatment of children, an internship program with a famous teacher’s college, and many awards, beat him with a belt when she was sure there were no witnesses, in order to “help” him behave.  She told him to tell nobody.  By the time that he discussed it with me, he said he did not want to think of it ever again, and that the famous headmistress had died and she was probably in Hell anyway.

2.  In the military, I had a superior officer – another psychiatrist — who concerned me with what I thought was a too-excessive and sometimes bordering-on-the-ridiculous use of restraints on patients.  I learned quickly that any complaint I made was unlikely to be heard, as being a psychiatrist — or anything else — in the military requires a serious limitation of civil rights and I had enough other troubles during that portion of my life.

3.  I have worked, in the years since then, in civilian institutions where I refused to order restraints.  Sometimes I let other psychiatrists do it.  I told the nurses they could call anyone they wanted.  I was usually told I was inappropriate for that kind of setting — a “tender heart” — always the implication that I had some growing or some development to do.

I’ve mentioned before the experiment in a high-class Ivy-League university where a group of students were randomly divided into two groups — “prisoners” and “guards.”  Although they were chosen arbitrarily and there was really no difference between these college students, within a couple of days the study needed to be stopped because they were so immersed in their roles that the “guards” became dangerously abusive to the “prisoners.”

When people  see each other in roles where one has superior status and seems to need to be in control and the other somehow needs to be controlled, the people who have less power seem to be at very high risk for some kind of abuse or subjugation, just because of the roles involved.  It is not hard to believe, when there is enough anger and no witnesses or criticism, that people will abuse each other.  It is not hard to believe, when there is not enough anger, that anger can be generated.  Whenever there are opposing sides, there is a sense of being adversaries.  So there will be anger.

I have no trouble accepting the above statements.  My problem is that you simply cannot patrol things that are going on.  You simply cannot insert official legal observers into places to stop things.  The only way getting out of this thing is going to happen is to somehow rear or train people to be non-abusers.  Might take a generation, but ought not to be impossible.

You can find pages upon pages on the internet about how to prevent abuse toward groups such as women and children.  They try to be specific, but are generally vague.  School teachers and doctors are compelled (upon threat of losing their licenses and even getting criminal charges) to report suspected cases of abuse – child abuse, elder abuse, spousal abuse (of either sex) – you name it.

You don’t have to be a public official to report what you see or suspect.  It may seem uncomfortable to be a whistle-blower, but many lives could have been saved if only someone had said a word to the right authorities.  You can make a difference by volunteering for organizations that have an interest in this.

You can monitor any relevant organizations through their newsletters or web pages.  Many have specific information, telling how to look for signs.

The truth of the matter is that I can’t find a single word about how to rear and nurture a human so that the child develops into a NON abuser.

Oh, I hear echos of songs of the 60’s in my head when I even think about this.  I always thought the things that make us capable of abuse are relics of our animal natures.  Until we can rid of this abusive tendency, I don’t know if we even have a right to call ourselves “higher” animals.

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