Tuesday 10 December 2019

Out Of Touch

Touching, the physical act, is out of style. That also extends to words of affection. I remember in the 1970's & 80's that touching other people was not forbidden, in fact children were encouraged to touch each other, to hug, kiss, hold hands, to wrestle and to know when it was inappropriate to touch someone. That began to change in the 1980's and 90's.

There grew an irrational fear of sexual abuse of children, that fear persists. It is not that children are not at threat from such people, it is that the threat is extended out of all proportion. That fear was encouraged by the media. In the 1980's that fear was directed at fathers, grandfathers and uncles. Sadly some fathers, grandfathers, uncles are perverts and are a threat to children. Now that we have had multiple generations of fatherless children we know that the greatest risk a child has of being sexually abused is from someone who is not a relative. In other words, a child having a father present in their life protects them from sexual abuse....common sense really.

But this fear spread throughout society including to the schools. The answer was simple, remove the threat and there would be no sexual abuse. Men commit most crime, including sexual crime, so remove men from the schools. Stop teachers touching their students, no hugs, no holding hands, no pat on the back. Threaten teachers with disciplinary action if they do, fire them, call the police to have them investigated. Remove all common sense from human affairs.

But what about if a child abused a child?

The fear continued to spread  and with the removal of common sense how could it not. If adults can abuse children then children could abuse children, best to remove any hint of abuse. Children could now not touch other children. Normal human contact, a basic need, particularly for a child was made into a crime, or at least treated as if it was a crime. Something unwholesome, something unnatural, something perverse.

Yes it was perverse, to treat something natural as something unnatural is very perverse. We must follow the rules that are designed to protect children even when these very laws do them harm. It is important for children to learn how to treat other people. It is important that they learn these things as children, not once it is too late.

We must not think that these ideas are simply people being overzealous, it exists by design. The fear was spread on purpose and it continues to be used as a weapon. If you say children should be touched it is taken as something sexual. That is to project adult feelings and attitudes onto children. Children do not possess such thoughts or feelings. Children need touch, they need to have their minds and their bodies engaged. They need to experience the world and their place in it.

Of course we would not be in this place if we had not handed our children over to the care of others. In schools and childcare we must trust that our children, who remain out of our sight and out of our ability to protect them, are being treated right.

The real problem is that the fear of abuse leaves us thinking a quite unrealistic thought, that children can and should be protected from all harm. It is possible and reasonable to minimize harm, but to think it is possible or even desirable to stop all harm is madness. It's magical thinking and magic doesn't exist.

We must accept that there is a difference between harmless touching and inappropriate touching. We must accept that for children touching is good for their mental health and growth. Children need to be protected, both from perverts and from the madness of ideas. In this case that touching is bad, it's not.

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