Two of the biggest news stories in Australia at the moment are the former television star Robert Hughes being found guilty of sexually assaulting five girls, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which commenced in January 2014 and as is expected to continue for the next few months.
In the case of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the commission has been set up to examine the history of abuse in educational institutions, religious groups, sporting organisations, state institutions and youth organisations. Further to that, it aims to uncover the truth about the cover ups, the failures to report the crimes once discovered by the organisations’ leaders, and the inability or lack of response by the heads of these organisations to prevent further abuse from occurring.
In the case of the Robert Hughes trial, he was charged and has recently been convicted of sexually assaulting five girls aged between six and 15 years old. Stories about the trial and the incidents themselves have been all over the media. Here was a man who, between the ages of 35 and 43 preyed on young girls including one of his co-stars of the very popular sitcom Hey Dad..! and also one of his own daughter’s friends.
Further to the media outlets reporting the facts about this case, there are plenty of professional blog websites, editorials on news sites, and amateur blogs giving opinions about not only this particular case, but others just like it including those charged under the Operation Yewtree investigation conducted by British police into the sexual assaults of minors by a few celebrities in England.
And those blogs and editorials are not just about celebrities who are child molesters, but also the abuse of young children by other adults within their families and communities.
Many children grow up in environments that are conducive to one or many forms of abuse. I would like to think that my own children aren’t living in that type of environment. Over the years I have watched the interviews with victims of abuse and shed a tear for them, offering my sympathy while trying to empathise with them.
When I listen to music that is aimed at making you stop and think, listen to the message, and do something more than move on to the next song, it is the songs about child abuse that has resonated with me more than any other topic. Not only have I felt empathy for the protagonist of each song, on many occasions I have been saddened by the fact that the writers of these songs wrote about them from their own personal experiences.
Eminem’s Cleanin’ Out My Closet, Korn’s Daddy, Pearl Jam’s Daughter, Aerosmith’s Janie’s Got a Gun, Suzanne Vega’s Luka, Tool’s Prison Sex and Skid Row’s In a Darkened Room are more than just rhythms and melodies written to entertain. And entertain has to be used lightly there as all of these songs are about the delicate subject of child abuse.
But when these lyrics speak to me, they say much more than “come on, sing along,” rather they say “don’t be the cause of pain and suffering of a child.” Surely I’m not the only one who hears those lyrics and thinks that way, and I know I’m not.
Apart from Suzanne Vega, all of those songs I have listed were written and performed by men, many of whom, as young boys were the victims of child abuse. These men could easily have grown up to continue the cycle of abuse, but I am sure that because they have stood up and sung these lyrics a thousand times, it has sunk into their own minds that you do not abuse children.
I gave this piece the title The Reasons Why Child Abuse is an Issue For Men because as a man who has not, and will not be the perpetrator of child abuse, I feel that there are too many times when the sins of my fellow menfolk come back to haunt me and my brothers.
There are four major types of child abuse; sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect.
If you are to associate each of these types with a specific gender, sexual and physical abuse would be linked with males as the perpetrators, while the psychological or emotional abuse and neglect would be seen as something that both males and females (in particular, the child’s father and mother, or other guardian) could be the aggressors here.
So out of the four categories of child abuse, men are associated with all four and women with only two types of abuse. But, most men are not child molesters. Most men will never be child abusers. But that doesn’t stop our gender from being grouped together as such.
It also doesn’t stop those mothers at the playground from quickly taking the hand of their children and deciding it’s time to go when a man turns up at the park, even with his own children in tow.
And it doesn’t stop family members from asking you not to let your niece or nephew sit on your lap because “we don’t want them to get too comfortable around men who aren’t their dad.”
It doesn’t stop parents from pulling their children from a preschool because the owners have decided to employ a qualified but male early childhood carer.
It doesn’t stop mother’s groups from rejecting fathers from taking part because “I don’t want a strange man playing with my kids.”
And it doesn’t stop those parents who say “oh, so your wife isn’t going to be home…” and then decide that letting their child come over and play with your child is not a wise idea after all.
So what has made child abuse an issue for honest, decent men like me who would look after and protect someone else’s child as if they were my own, are those scumbags who have abused THEIR power, abused THEIR trust, abused the children they have often been charged with protecting and basically fucked it up for the rest of us.
And the sad thing is, even though I have written this article promising you, dear reader that many of my fellow men are good, honest, decent guys, it scares the hell out of me that one day my own sons might be left alone with someone who might abuse them in some way.
Now, it could be a woman who might be the perpetrator of such evil, but statistically speaking, it would most likely be a man.Footnote: The featured image I have used for this story is taken from a news site who ran a story about a man who was wrongly convicted of child abuse. You can read his story here.