We live in a very violent society! In fact, violence has become a way of life in America, according to R. J. Gelles and M. A. Straus, authors of Physical Violence in American Families. They believe the family is the most violent institution other than the military in time of war! That is appalling, as children are also practicing this behavior. When children as young as three years of age are shooting their brothers and sisters; we have problems! Are they coming from the wombs angry? We must break the cycles of abuse! In order to save our children and future generations, the violence must be stopped! To do this, we have to stop violating them as well as to prevent them from seeing it. According to Gelles and Straus (who will be referred to as G&S) who interviewed over 6,000 American families, 50% of the men reported they frequently assaulted their wives and children.
This is overwhelming because the word “frequently” is used, and there are no statistics on those who were physically violent on one occasion, and it does not reveal the numbers who were emotionally or sexually abusive, so the statistics are even greater! My initial premise was to write a book on child abuse because I am constantly reminded on a daily basis of the abuses rendered to infants, children, and teens. More importantly, I am sickened each time I hear the reports of children being sexually abused. What kind of “animal” would desire sex with an infant or child, and what type of person would kill an innocent, helpless person? These questions lead me to write this book. When I began collecting information, I did not plan to discuss my past experiences with emotional and physical violence, however, as the project evolved, it was necessary to include other types of abuse.
Because I am a survivor of domestic violence (I do not use the word “victim” because I am healed) by two husbands, the book includes many of my past experiences as well as those of my three sons. Although I have overcome these atrocities, I must admit that it still bothers me when I hear or see another individual being victimized, especially helpless individuals, and anyone who does not recognize that they are being violated. Other than physical violence, sometimes the abuse is not easy to delineate; in fact, it also took many years for me to understand the various types because I did not grow up in a violent household. Who are the abusers? Most people believe males are the perpetrators. Before we move on, we must first clarify that they are not; females are also abusers! Some women violate children and their partners just as men do.
In fact, “abuse by females is on the rise,” according to Mel Feit, Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Men, Old Bethpage, N.Y., one of the first male organizations to deal with violence. While doing the research on child abuse, I overhead Feit on The Maury Povich Show (January 22, 1997) discussing the issue of male abuse. I was alarmed to hear him say that female-to-male violence was about 50-50, and female abusers (if reported) might even be higher! My first reaction was to disagree; however, I believed that further research was required in the area of male as victim in order to understand the causes of child abuse. I contacted Feit and was shocked to learn some of the gory details, as well as to hear that many people, even with his factual data, disagreed with him, especially some of the feminist groups and the media. (See section on Male Abuse in my book entitled, Recognizing Abuse: Reclaiming Your Birthright.)
Whether there is consensus or not regarding Feit’s theory, we must admit that America has serious problems, and whether it is male or female as dominant abuser, the truth must be told, the issues addressed, and preventative measures sought in order to stop the atrocities. I agree with Geraldo (attorney, reporter, and famous talk show host) when he says, “Violence is violence; whether it is man, woman, or child; we must alleviate it!” There are many differences of opinion as to what is considered abusive or violent, especially those working in the area of child abuse. For example, many child psychologists, social workers, and researchers have differences of opinions as to the meaning of sexual abuse. This is reiterated in the report “Child Abuse, Statistics, Research, Resources,” by Jim Hooper, Ph.D.
He believes there will always be a disagreement because child abuse and neglect are controversial. Some researchers and therapist, according to Hooper, consider “flashing” or exposing oneself to a child under age 16 as sexual abuse, while others disagree. Some experts report touching or coercion as a violation, while others use age and gender as the determining factors. For example, if an older female has sex with a boy 14 years of age and over, many do not include this as sexual abusive, and some people will take the age of the offender into consideration to determine whether the act was abusive.
To determine the numbers of children being abused; authors, experts, and therapists’ biases have to be con-sidered. Hopper provides an honest assessment when he says most experts who claim to be unbiased are fooling themselves and admits his values, intellect, and experiences as a therapist have influenced his findings. I abhor the notion of anyone using their powers or force to take advantage of another human being, especially children and the elderly who are helpless, so my biases also have to be taken into consideration!