Pakeha need to take ownership of child abuse (+link to full report)

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Pakeha kill just as many children as Maori, despite Maori being the “face of abuse” in the media, according to a researcher.

Social work lecturer Raema Merchant said focusing on Maori parents diverts attention away from the fact Pakeha can harm children too.

I’m not denying it’s a problem for Maori, but if we’re just focusing on Maori we’re ignoring the Pakeha side. It’s almost as though Pakeha are putting their heads in the sand and saying there is no Pakeha child abuse.”

Her master’s thesis at the Eastern Institute of Technology found about half of the children killed in New Zealand died at the hands of a Pakeha abuser.

Almost 9000 children were victims of physical abuse between 2000 and 2008, yet only 21 became “household names”‘ in the media, she said. Just one-third of child deaths were reported in the press, and they were predominantly Maori cases.

[sws_pullquote_right]Merchant urged the public and media to focus on real problems of child abuse, rather than making Maori the “face of abuse”. [/sws_pullquote_right] The real danger I have seen from a social worker point of view is that there are a lot of children being abused but as far as the public are concerned they only seem to know about the ones that are Maori, Child abuse is a problem for all people, not just for Maori.”

Merchant is already planning her next thesis, which will look at a bigger issue: whether focusing on Maori child abuse victims leads to skewed views by health professionals and the public. This could lead to a lack of awareness of abuse occurring in Pakeha families, she said.

Merchant found physical child abuse was largely related to poverty, poor housing, inter-generational abuse, poor parenting and drugs and alcohol abuse. Her research comes after a recent poll revealed half of New Zealanders believe child abuse has an ethnic connection. Research New Zealand conducted the survey on how New Zealanders view the causes of child abuse, asking respondents to rank the factors they believed most contributed to the problem.

Just over half the 503 people polled said child abuse was a cultural issue, while parental experience and economic factors shared equal status at about a third each.

Child Matters chief executive Anthea Simcock said abuse was not just about one culture.

“Child abuse is right across the spectrum.”

On average, one child is killed every five weeks in New Zealand, and most victims are less than a year old.

1 COMMENT

  1. Could the numbers be put on the page? When related to the percentage of the population of each ethnicity what are the numbers like then? I do agree that child abuse happens across the spectrum but i’d like to see numbers or a link to the thesis.

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