Extremism in the home

Friday, 30. September 2016

Extremism in the home

Ron LawlerIn our focus on the ideological aspects of extremism, we should not overlook the role of violence, bullying and humiliation in the home. The home offers no scope to blame another race or religion for the abuse of innocents. It is ‘us’ not ‘them’ who are responsible.

In Australia in 2014 there were more than 40,000 known cases of children being abused or neglected. About one third of these children suffered physical abuse. It is likely that many more cases went hidden and undetected.

Violence in the home reaps a bitter harvest of self-hate, suicide and lives devoid of meaning. Hate begets hate. In our efforts to confront terrorism, we must take seriously the silent terror of children who suffer or witness ongoing abuse in the very place where they should be safest – and at a time of their lives when the peak development of their brains and emotions depend on sound attachment to their parents.

There is strong evidence to support the notion that child victims or witnesses of domestic violence are more likely to become perpetrators of violence than children who do not have these experiences. This is a vicious cycle.

On the other hand, evidence also indicates that most of the children who have these experiences do not become perpetrators. The resilience which enables abused children or parents to overcome their experiences and live constructive lives is worthy of study.

Thankfully, most of us may not be subjected to these extremes, or at least not in an ongoing way. However, we can all play a part in creating nurturing families and communities that provide an antidote to extreme behaviour. This requires personal commitment and practice at home.

We can also be vigilant and supportive beyond our homes, because, as has been said, it takes a community to raise a child. We may be a grandparent, uncle or aunt, family friend, or community member.

The current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia has heard countless stories about the failure of churches and government institutions to respond effectively to allegations, and indeed the fact, of child sexual abuse. These children had already been separated from their birth parents because of unsafe home environments and were then abused by those entrusted with their care. The offences took place over decades, and perpetrators were often protected by the leaders of the institutions, who left them in positions of responsibility for children. Often they were simply moved on to other locations with further opportunities to abuse children.

So while we are rightly aware of political and social extremism in the wider sphere, let us give sufficient attention to how we live in our families and communities, the beating heart of any society. The care of every one of our children, regardless of their ethnic, religious or socio-economic group, is a key measure of the worth of our civilisation.

We can prevent or break the cycle of hate and vengeance in homes that spills into our public places. We can all contribute to a climate of compassion and inclusion, rather than violence, bullying or exclusion.

Ron Lawler has been a manager in state and federal governments in Australia since 1992.  Prior to that he lived and worked in a remote area for four years where he managed an Aboriginal community-controlled NGO supporting their return to their traditional, homeland country. After University graduation he worked 15 years as a full time, voluntary worker with IofC in India, South East Asia, Europe and Canada.  He maintains a particular interest in Indonesia and is still learning the language. As a strategic, community service planner, a budget and contract manager, he has been engaged in innovative responses to homelessness, child protection, family strengthening and diversion of Aboriginal young men from the criminal justice system. He is currently serving on the International Council of Initiatives of Change as Treasurer.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.