Imagine living with a bully all the time, but being too scared to leave. Imagine being afraid to go to sleep at night and afraid to wake up in the morning. Imagine being denied food, warmth or sleep. Imagine being punched, slapped, hit, bitten, pinched and kicked.
In 2012, Child Protective Services estimated that 686,000 children were victims of maltreatment in the United States — or 9.2 per 1,000 – and over 80% of the perpetrators of these crimes were the children’s parents. In addition, 45% of the total number of perpetrators were men. And 54% were women.
I was, too. True, men are historically more likely to commit violent crimes. Yet, in the majority of child abuse cases, the victims suffer from neglect, which women are more likely to commit. These numbers–not to mention the psychological damage - indicate that the concept of females as perpetrators of child abuse is not something that the feminist movement can continue to ignore or downplay.
Calling attention to violence within relationships, setting up women’s shelters, and creating education programs geared toward understanding the cycle of abuse are all key things that feminism can be proud of. But there’s one area of abuse that doesn’t get enough recognition in the movement: child abuse–especially committed by women.
Women should not be seen as ‘Natural Caretakers’. It is naturally difficult for us to fathom the idea that The Mother — the ultimate role for a woman to have in society — could even conceive of harming her child. Yet we must acknowledge that it does happen. In fact, because society says women should take care of children, that can put them more in a position to have more opportunity to be abusive and neglectful. So not only must we acknowledge it, we must confront the issue head-on and work to put an end to it.
Contrary to popular opinion, women who sexually abuse children are criminals, not seductive temptresses, helping them come of age. In light of recent cases of schoolteachers committing sexual crimes against their students, South Park created a parodic episode to shed some light on the ridiculousness of this double standard, showing how some elements of society jump to defend these women, instead of recognising that they are criminals, just like the men who commit these same crimes.
Matriarchy is no better than patriarchy. One is no better than the other. Although the concept of a societal form of matriarchy ever existing in cultures has long been disputed, matriarchy can still exist at the small, familial levels and it is no better than patriarchy. Patriarchy and matriarchy are about who holds the control and power and people of the future need to tend towards a concern for the individual’s freedom and natural rights rather than the current power of either women or men as a gender.
Survivors should also feel free to embrace feminism, not feel that it has failed them. In preparing to write this article, I was reading through some stories of child abuse survivors. Of the survivors who had been abused by women, a common theme emerged: they all felt uncomfortable telling others about the abuse because they knew that no one would believe them. While this is common for survivors of all types of abuse, what’s important to note here is that those who did tell someone were ignored or written off–supposedly because “women don’t do that.”
Feminism for me means I fight for a world with equal rights, for justice and for real democracy. The modern feminist movement needs to ensure that it is all-inclusive–that it embraces the needs of everyone, that it doesn’t just focus on domestic abuse, or the abuse of children by fathers.