A humble little blog about books, information, and other things that are good to know.

Posts tagged ‘sexual abuse’


Title: Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children

Author: Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

Year of Publication: 2012

Genre Keywords: abuse, children, child abuse, child protection, domestic violence, emotional abuse, narcissism, neglect, non-fiction, parenting, prejudice, psychology, sexual abuse, sociology, violence, witch hunts.

Summary: In our culture, adults tend to understand children as the property of their parents, wild and uncivilized creatures who must be made to submit to authority rather than nurtured to fulfill some innate potential. The essential thesis of the book is that child abuse is a symptom of these larger prejudices, which are one point on the continuum that leads from responsible caregiving into abusive behaviour. The author, a trained and certified psychoanalyst, uses her observations of real abuse victims and of well-known studies in Child Abuse and Neglect to make the case that protecting children from abuse requires us to consider and challenge our beliefs about the nature of the child.

Who’ll Love It: Anybody who cares deeply about children will want to at least consider the idea that we interact with them more as possessions to be shown off, pets to be trained, than as real human beings. (Sure, they’re works in progress, but aren’t we all?) Fans of psychoanalytic theory and of topics in Prejudice Studies (like racism and sexism) will definitely appreciate Young-Bruehl’s approach. If your first reaction, however, was “Well, kids are wild animals who require strict discipline to become grown-up people”, you might want to start off with books on child development, investigating the educational and emotional needs of children as they grow. I also recommend How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish; I consider it the definitive guide to treating children with respect while still providing appropriate guidance and boundaries. I basically have it memorized.

Reality Check: Young-Bruehl definitely makes a point of restricting the scope of her book; she discusses childism primarily in the concept of child abuse and its psychological ramifications. But there are so many different places to apply the theory of childism. Consider child beauty pageants, where children are dressed up and made to perform like show dogs, and the related phenomenon of “stage parents“. How about the controversy over prescribing medication to make children more manageable in the classroom? Or the juvenile detention laws in your jurisdiction? These are just a few examples, but the exploration can go on in countless directions anywhere you find children. What examples of childism do you see around you?

Want a first taste of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s ideas about our social prejudices against children? This interview makes a great introduction to her writings on childism and its relationship to child abuse.


The Bishop’s Man

The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre.

Image via Chapter and Verse: A Showcase for Canadian Talent.

Title: The Bishop’s Man

Author: Linden MacIntyre

Year of Publication: 2009

Genre Keywords: CanLit, Catholicism, Nova Scotia, pedophile priests, priesthood, scandal, sexual abuse, suicide, trauma.

Summary: Father Duncan MacAskill has spent his priesthood as “the Bishop’s man”, the priest who swoops into a parish in the wake of sex-abuse allegations, removes the offending clergyman, and attempts to set the community right in whatever way will best preserve the holy image of Mother Church. Now he’s been placed in a different role for a change: returning to his hometown on the Nova Scotia coast to be a parish priest. It’s a somewhat quieter life, in which he has a chance to reflect on some of the demons in his past: the time when he witnessed a priest’s abuse of another young man, for instance, or his experience of love and death in South America. But when he becomes close to the family of a friend from his youth, he begins to confront the consequences of his life’s work: did a priest he once moved to a nearby parish assault his friend’s troubled teenage son?

Who’ll Love It: Fans of a vivid setting, realistic action, and a delicately-woven tapestry of past and present will find this story delightful. Be warned, though: if you have trouble following stories told out of sequence, or tales in which key information is fed obliquely (and sometimes ambiguously) to the reader, you might have a hard time making sense of this subtle tale. I’m sure there are new bits and pieces I could pick up on reading the book a second time; it seems like the sort of work that would reward that. So even if you don’t have all the details straight by the last page, it’s a worthwhile journey just for the vivid portrait of life in coastal Nova Scotia. Having read the book, I felt like I had been there – and of course it doesn’t hurt that Father MacAskill spends some time in Ontario, visiting some local landmarks I see on a regular basis.

Authors Abounding: Linden MacIntyre is a frequent guest host on CBC Radio One’s The Current. It’s available for download, but I usually listen to it on the radio; CBC can tell you which frequency you’ll need to hear it on weekday mornings at 8:30 (EST).

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