A letter to Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children
Some remarks on the one-dimensionality of the UN Violence against Children campaign
Dear mrs Santos Pais,
With great respect and anticipation I have taken notice of the recent initiatives by the UN to address the issue of violence against children worldwide.
Due to the fact that English is not my mother tongue it is hard for me to formulate my point in this letter in the nuanced way I would like to. That’s why I take a big shortcut and come straight to the point.
In the report as well as the website, especially the section ‘What needs to happen’ I see a rather one-dimensional presentation of the problem in terms of victims and offenders. Only in a small footnote on page 21 I read “There is also evidence to suggest that children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to act aggressively towards peers or siblings, to carry violence into adulthood, as either victims or perpetrators. Witnessing violence between parents or caregivers might also influence children’s attitudes about its acceptability within the family and close relationships; in turn, this could be passed down to their children, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence.”
It is this ‘cycle of violence’ that I miss in the sections ‘What needs to be done’. Of course it is of utmost importance to establish and reenforce laws, regulations, institutions and policy in countries where those facilities are missing. But it is also important not to look at the problem through the eyes of now, as if the world is simply divided into children – victims and adult – offenders. As this ‘circle of violence’ indicates, this is a recurring problem where victims become offenders making new victims. You could compare this to a genetic condition that is passed on from generation to generation.
My point is that in order to address this huge problem we humans need to develop a much deeper understanding of the nature of the trauma caused by violence against children and how this evolves into violent behaviour. Many professional psychologists have studied this mechanism and great progress has been made in the methods to treat these kinds of syndromes effectively. May I mention Alice Miller (The drama of the gifted child) who is one of the founders of this important knowledge.
I would like the UN campaign to present and address this problem not as a one-dimensional issue of victims and offenders, but in its complexity of a recurring, multi-dimensional problem that can only be effectively solved by teaching, enabling and reenforcing of all people about the nature of this trauma and it’s effects on the self esteem, and the proven effective solutions that have been so amply developed in the last decades.
By ‘only’ protecting victims and punishing offenders, the core of the problem will never be solved and more people will get traumatized.
By understanding, exposing and treating the trauma the right way both victims and offenders – who are victims as well – can be cured and converted to strong ambassadors for this approach, as the experience of the liberation of their trauma is the strongest possible motivator to help other people reach the same goal.
With warmest regards,
Erik de Vries
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