When family become the enemy


by Al-Hack
15th December, 2005 at 7:21 am    

It isn’t well known enough that most rape and sexual abuse of women happens by people they know, usually family members. What we do know is that most South Asian families would rather sweep it under the carpet than confront rape.

It is worse if the parents are not around to protect their children, as it increasingly looks to be the case in Sri Lanka, where about 600,000 women work abroad as maids.

That is a phenomenal number and the money they send home is worth a lot to the Sri Lankan govt. Sunny posted an article on ‘sending money home‘ before. But it sometimes has disastrous consequences for their children, the BBC’s Dumeetha Luthra reports.

Children left at home can be vulnerable to child abuse, incest and other exploitation.

“The mother leaves the children, sometimes with the father. Sometimes, when the father feels lonely, he will try and make use of the children to satisfy his needs,” warns Neeta Ariayaratna.

She works for a local NGO Sarvodya, which runs a home for young unmarried mothers.

The Sri Lankan government should be doing more to recognise the problem and put provisions in place, but this may be one of those cases where mothers would still rather trust families than a govt run home to take care of their children. Some efforts would not go amiss though, right?


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  1. Sakshi — on 15th December, 2005 at 7:40 am  

    This is a SAD but TRUE situation. But I doubt there can be much done from the government’s side. As you pointed out, why would anyone leave their child with an outsider instead of their family.

    Plus the TRUST factor is what plays an important role here. How much trust in today’s society do people actually have in their government ?

  2. Gunjan — on 15th December, 2005 at 9:08 am  

    I haven’t read about any of the proposed actions but the SL government should try to do more for the families left behind.

    I know a lot of people feel safe leaving their teenage children in a hostel/ convent than with relatives for long periods of time.

    Their government could provide accomodation for these childred for a subsidised rate?
    -increase awareness about child abuse
    -encourage reporting of such cases
    -take strict action, harsh sentence to decrease these crimes
    -Assign social worker to a group of kids, have meetings with them regularly – that should discourage abuse as well.

    I’m sure they can do a lot more if they wanted to.

  3. Paul Brown — on 15th December, 2005 at 9:54 am  

    I think it is inaccurate to suggest that fathers are satsifying urges. That isn’t why rape and sexual abuse happen. There is nothing innate in men that makes them have needs that have to be satisfied. There is no latent sexual motor within men. Such abuse is about power over the vulnerable, I would say it is a hate crime more than anything else.

    It is also very naive for people to trust their relatives rather than the state or voluntary sector. My instincts would be the exact opposite.

  4. Col. Mustafa — on 15th December, 2005 at 1:09 pm  

    “I would say it is a hate crime more than anything else.”

    Why is it a hate crime?
    Do you mean the dad hates the daughter so he molests her?
    Or the dad hates the fact that his wife is abroad so he molests his daughter?

    I have a feeling not all the cases are like that, and most would probably be due to circumstance, lack of education, and detatchment from your own child.
    Not becuase you hate your own child.
    Incest is a big problem in many South Asian countries.

    The obvious things to do would be to try and educate the males, but if you are south asian and you’ve lived in one of the many countries out there you realise its not as easy as you might think to make men aware of these things.

    As Gunjan said
    -encourage reporting of such cases
    -take strict action, harsh sentence to decrease these crimes

    Which i agree with, but see the problems of implementing it into thier societies.
    Taking strict action harsh sentencing is a great way to deter these crimes, but to encourage reporting of these cases so someone can be charged is not so easy.
    If the wife is abroad, then its upto the child to report the case.
    Alot of these children being abused are quite young and don’t really know how to report it.
    So who reports it?
    The social worker idea is a good one, but it would be better if it was actually taken seriously.
    Incest is always a problem no matter what country you goto as its so hard even with all the neccessary measures to keep track of whats going on in someones house.
    If there aware of this problem in Sri lanka then they obviously know its more likely to happen to the families where the wife has gone to work abroad.
    So there should at least be regualr visits from government social workers or something to these homes to make sure nothing out of ordinary is happening.
    Also the appropiate education should be given to the social workers so they can spot the signs of an abused child

  5. Paul Brown — on 15th December, 2005 at 1:20 pm  

    I meant hatred of women. It is a misogynist crime.

  6. sonia — on 15th December, 2005 at 5:23 pm  

    to be honest, i dont know that being away from parents makes it worse. Being in a foreign country of course has other serious implications. But considering just the ‘domestic’ context: i think in many situations a lot of parentsaren’t doing a great job protecting their daughters. Or, even worse in some cases- for a variety of reasons – pushing them back into violent situations. – Back to this sweeping things under the carpets and refusing to confront the issue. im not saying that is the case for everyone, and in many cases, in certain countries, if people ( e.g. distant relatives whatever) know you haven’t got any ‘guardians’ who are around they often try and take advantage of you. But again, i do think it depends who you are. if your parents are poor folk they’ll probably not be very powerful. if you’re parents are rich or ‘influential’ you have more ‘protection’

  7. sonia — on 15th December, 2005 at 5:34 pm  

    anyway i think its very important to change social attitudes. a lot of kids have to stay in abusive homes with abusive relatives around just because say ( when a woman can leave if she has economic independence) but won’t because she fears social disapproval more than her kids’ current physical state or future mental state. And its hard to ‘blame’ the individual cos they’ve often been brought up to think they will become ostracized if they do such a thing – and subsequently -that their children will be ostracized and not have the family’s ‘good name’ – which is practically an institution in itself. it makes me mad and boil and attitudes have to change in order for kids to be able to be brought up in an unconventional – but safer – environment. Same goes for adult women.

  8. sonia — on 15th December, 2005 at 5:37 pm  

    i think Paul Brown up there’s got some good points. With regard to the issue of governments – well im not much suprised the SL govt. hasn’t done very much! Most governments around the world are terrible when it comes to providing for families, mothers, and childcare in general. its not like affordable childcare isn’t a major issue here – it is. Generally society for some strange reason perpetuates this myth that everyone must have kids, its a pretty major (!) driving force, but then get pregnant and see how society accommodates you – no wonder so many young mothers are depressed!

  9. Tanvir — on 15th December, 2005 at 10:40 pm  

    I dont think its the mothers’ absence that is the problem, thier absence simply helps come about an underlying condition.

    I’m sure there are many families with an absent mother where the children dont face abuse. Its the the rapist who is the problem.

    I think educating children into believing that it is okay, and safe to seek help when faced with such personal problems, and giving them somewhere to go, be it a telephone line or a designated person at their school, which can result in the rapist being brought to justice is probably the most practical solution.

  10. douglas — on 16th December, 2005 at 1:56 am  

    Paul Brown,

    I can appreciate that you want to be seen as right on, and all that, but your arguements are ludicrous. You say:

    There is nothing innate in men that makes them have needs that have to be satisfied.

    That is to deny biology.

    You say:

    there is no latent sexual motor in men.

    That is to deny the existence of the human race.

    Of course men have sexual urges, it is just that sometimes they are inappropriate and have to be suppressed. What is so difficult about that?

  11. Amit — on 16th December, 2005 at 2:16 am  

    Rape is such an awful crime. I remember the other day seeing a reconstruction on crimewatch and that in itself made me cringe as it was so shocking. But to be a youngster placed in a situation where they are so vunerable is just so unfortunate. It’s definitely not the mothers fault but what can be done? Realistically it’s unlikely that the SL gov’t have the means to provide the type of assistance that has been mentioned. What could be done is an initiative to promote to these working mothers to leave their children in the care of a female. That way they would be less vunerable to abuse by males. it’s not a perfect solution but just an idea that could be promoted alongside an education initiative which opens the eyes of mothers and the potentail danger their children face.

  12. douglas — on 16th December, 2005 at 3:09 am  

    Amit,

    If you are responding to my post, I apologise. Rape is a disgusting thing and it is up to men to stop themselves.

    What I cannot accept is the ludicrous belief of Paul Bown that sexuality is not innate. What is clear is that there are circumstances when it is not appropriate.

    There is an element of responsibilty for your actions here, I think.

  13. Paul Brown — on 16th December, 2005 at 10:23 am  

    The arguments I made are not in the least ludicrous. You are trying to suggest that men have uncontrollable urges that they are overwhelmed by and that must be satisfied. People can choose when and when not to have sex, can make choices to be chaste or promsiscuous at different tims in their lives. The argument that men have a latent sexual motor that they cannot control comes from andrea Dworkin and other separatists and is rubbished by all science and logic.

    There is a tendency fort people to make excuses for male sexual abusers by suggesting that they need some sort of sexual outlet and that they will ultimately take advantage of any female if they are frustrated. I know this to be utter nonsense. It is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact.

    I was not being ‘right-on’, I was simply pointing out the obvious.

  14. Kiran — on 16th December, 2005 at 10:25 am  

    So mothers go abroad to work. . . it makes you wonder what the man of the family, “who claims to wear the pants in the house”, does not make a move to support his family financially, emotionally and physically.

    Also as per Amit’s suggestion, to leave the child under the care of a female. . . Some of these female carers are the worst, they cannot be trusted either, come on realistically some of them in order to earn a little bit of money they will sell that child and make it even worse. . .

    It makes one wonder some men can be such animals, What??? just to satisfy their sexual urges they condone to rape. . . Why not just go to a brothle and pick a willing woman to satisfy you!!! Rather than attack an innocent girl and a child at that. . .

  15. Paul Brown — on 16th December, 2005 at 10:29 am  

    Also, sexuality is a lot more flexible than you suggest. Throughout our lives, we can play with it, experiment with it, we are not slaves to one sexuality and we do not have to have one particular way of expressing our sexuality. It is not the case that a man whose wife is away will eventually feel the need to turn to any other female on hand. I realise that in societies such as Sri Lanka men are used to having wives from quite a young age and automatically expect there to be a woman to satisfy him, but in the developed world we thankfully do not regard women as depositories for our semen, at least many of us don’t.

  16. Amit — on 16th December, 2005 at 11:31 am  

    So what you’re basically saying Kiran is that no matter what is done or suggested nothing can be done to help these children? I think not. However hard we try we will never totally elimiate child abuse, all we can do is hope to educate people to make better choices and to do our best to protect as many children as possible. Now when I said leaving children with a female. I didn’t mean with a stranger. I meant leaving them with a grandparent or sister. Yes, not all family relations are perfect but if it is someone that can be trusted then maybe leave the child with them.

    Doug, yes I do believe that there is a level of innate sexual desire that we do posses but I don’t necessarily believe that it cannot be kept under control also. Sexual energy itself is very innate but we were born with choice and free will which makes us fully responsible for all of our actions and choices

  17. Kiran — on 16th December, 2005 at 12:16 pm  

    When I said female carers, I meant family (close relatives), and I did not say nothing can be done, all I said was these women can’t be trusted. . .

    I do agree that by educating these people it will give them a better perspective of what the dangers are, BUT surely are there enough resources to educate them??? If they rely on the Government to provide for these resources then I think it is going to be a one lengthy process . . . Since corruption is a major factor that is a hindrance to educate them and this will take too long to come up with a solution and by then there will be other innocent children who will endure such monstrosity. . .

    As far as innate sexual desires go I do agree with you Amit that it can be controlled and that people should face the consequences of their actions (good or bad)

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