Thursday, January 03, 2008

3. Linking gender, domestic violence and child abuse

Absolutely spot on, but wrong

Robert Whiston; Letter to the editor in reaction to the contribution “Children's rights” in the UK Teeside Evening Gazette of July 29th, 2004 by Claire Jane Paczko, legal adviser to My Sister's Place, a Women's Advice Centre in the North-east UK; August 03, 2004

Claire Paczko's article (July 29th, 2004) is absolutely spot on when she says there are strong links between domestic violence and child abuse. The only problem is that she is not telling the whole truth, and I suspect both she and your newspaper do not really want to know that fuller truth.

The fuller truth is that statistics show that women (predominantly mothers) are far more likely to assault and abuse their children than fathers. Not only that, they are more likely to murder children. Official statistics for the year 2001 for Northern Ireland indicate for example that there were 247 deaths of children and young people aged up to 19 in Northern Ireland. A total of 134 of these deaths - two key points coming up now - involved children aged less than one year. Neonatal deaths (children aged less than 28 days) accounted for 73% (98) of the 134. A further 51 of these deaths involved children aged 1-14 years.

This is not something unique to British mothers but is manifest in all countries that keep official statistics. The USA is a lot more open and far less squeamish than the UK authorities in detailing the gender of the murderers. It may come as a surprise to many that despite the hue and cry of last year surrounding Prof. Roy Meadow, research shows that the number of alleged "cot deaths" has fallen from 2,000 per year to a little over 200 pa. It is therefore not a matter of courts frequently failing to recognise the danger but of journalists who are 'prepped' by special interest groups who are brazen enough to not simply skew but actually manufacture numbers to suit their cause.

I have been on several Whitehall committees over the years looking into the topic of child abuse and I have to say that Women's Aid, who usually come up with this sort of fictitious evidence, have never once presented evidence that was credible. Indeed, the figures they produced about 12 months ago regarding fathers who murder their children on contact visits, which was widely reported in the press at the time was found by the Lord Chancellors Department (LCD) to be false. The LCD found not 45 deaths in one year but 3 in the last 14 years. Civil servants at the ministry then advised them of the true figures (and in my presence), yet you can still find the erroneous ones on their website.

The trade Union NAPO came out with similar misleading figures and, I like to think, at my urging the Minister at the time, Rosie Winterton, called their General Secretary, Harry Fletcher, into her office and disabused him.

The figures quoted in the article relating to a 1999 survey sounds very much like those to be found in Hansard. Unfortunately, for the article's author, she does not quote from the far more substantial survey of 2001 which had a sample not of 130 but 2,689. This latter sample conveys a far different, almost opposite, picture (Child Maltreatment in the UK, A Study of the Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2001).

The ability of some well-meaning advocates has to be questioned when they dabble in arithmetic and fail to differentiate that the 90% refers not to the whole population or a large sample, but 90% of a small sample, ie a tiny minority. The same deliberately created confusion is to be seen in figures relating to the incidence between pregnancy and domestic violence. Take another example, the stated abduction rate of 26%. Does any reasonable person know of 4 children in their locality where one has been abducted ?

Fogging up the public's perception of these issues is compounded by always referring to proportions, e.g. 26% of a sample and not actual numbers, e.g. 52, out of, say, a total population which might number 1,300. Proponents of reform will have to do better then try to hoodwink the public if they are serious about society accepting any of their reforms. I predict you will find this letter to large to publish and so I challenge you to give me the right to reply in your columns and permit the public be correctly informed.

Robert Whiston. FRSA

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