We’re protecting the wrong people

We’re protecting the wrong people

There’s a school of thought that clings to the belief that the best place for a child is with their parents and family.

This may well be right in a utopian, perfect world. The trouble with this theory is this is not a perfect world. The best place for all children is with their parents and family UNLESS the child is at risk of violence and abuse.

Then, the best place for the child is somewhere else. It’s that simple.
I’m talking about the recent incident in Flaxmere where yet another innocent child was brutally assaulted to the point where he may be permanently disabled. Yet once again, no one knows anything. Serious brain injuries, lots of whānau present but funnily enough not one person has a clue. Nothing.
Sadly, this is all too common with our most vulnerable children. In the past, police have regularly complained how families refusing to speak up prevented bringing child abusers, often within the family itself, to justice.

We need to change this narrative. Children’s safety has to be the most important consideration, not what’s best for the family. Agencies don’t like uplifting children and certainly don’t make those decisions lightly. The reality is they have to be the voice of the child, especially if the family close ranks and protects the abuser.
The truth is that no single government agency is going to be able to keep our tamariki safe. That requires everyone; families, neighbours, communities, professionals and all those who care, to talk. The greatest change is not going to come from the government, it’s going to come from us – the community.

We hold the greatest influence. We can change the culture. We can decide what we accept and what we, as role models, present as being “normal”. Only then will we see change. Having a defenceless child assaulted and abused inside their home by a family member, and then to have the family stonewall authorities and refuse to cooperate should not be our “normal”.

It’s disgraceful, cowardly and enables the abuse to continue. That mistaken belief in some warped, misguided idea of camaraderie, blood pact and mentality of sticking together no matter what, has to end.

What they don’t realise is by doing this, they are potentially feeding their child to the wolves – and all by turning a blind eye.
We must do better.

Dane is the co-ordinator of Taranaki Safe Families Trust.