i'm pretty sure we've all been sickened by the news of a woman being sentenced today for some pretty horrific child abuse. i'm not going to go into details here, but you can read this for background in case you've managed to avoid hearing about it.
there are so many levels of fail going on here, it's hard to know where to start. of course the primary failure is of the parents who abused this child. it's pretty much beyond comprehension that one human being can do this to another, and on this point there's not much more to be said.
then we have the victim-blaming by the defence lawyer. while provocation has been removed as a defence, it appears to be still available for sentencing? maybe there's a valid reason for this being so, but hard to understand how it could be used in this case. we know that this was a difficult child. in some news report i heard about how she had tried to burn her house down to kill the occupants, and there were a range of other behaviour that can only be described as difficult. but none of this is an excuse for abuse.
you would expect that parents who were struggling to deal with a difficult child would have asked for help. and they did. but that help was not forthcoming. given the child had been taken away from the parents and sexually abused while under CYFs care, then returned to them, it would be understandable if they didn't trust the state. yet it appears the state was all they had, and the support they needed wasn't given to them.
which again, is not excuse for what they did to this child. yet there remains the fact that this child belongs to a community and a society. and when the parents are unable or unwilling to provide adequate care and protection for a child, the society has a responsibility to step in. that's why we have government departments, social service agencies and NGOs working in the sector. to step in and help out so these things don't happen.
all of those systems clearly failed this child. some of this will be because of lack of adequate resourcing. CYFs is well short of the staff it needs to deal with the cases that comes to its attention. other issues are raised in the ombudsman's report on this case, and you can find some of his recommendations here.
the response from paula bennett is, frankly, pathetic. yes, the responsibility of abuse lies with the parents and they should face the consequences of their actions. but she is responsible for a department that is supposed to provide social support when needed, and especially when someone is so desperately asking for help that they write to the prime minister.
her attempts to dodge responsibility for failing to provide that support when specifically asked for it were awful to watch. it's so typically ignores the sense of community, a community that should be watching out for its weakest and most vulnerable members - in this case an abused child that could have been better protected if the parents' plea for help had been properly attended to. it ignores the fact that she is being paid a pretty handsome salary to make sure that those who need support receive it in a timely fashion, and that such support is actually meeting the level of need. in this case she has clearly failed, and it's about time she owned that fact.
at the heart of this sorry tale is a child who has been abused throughout her young life in various ways by various people. i don't know where she is now, the news reports haven't said. they have reported that she is still suffering because of her experiences, and that's not surprising. i can only hope that she is finally getting the help she needs, and that the future holds something positive for her.