Cartoon Characters and Child Abuse

A current Facebook trend, well, current through today, December 6th anyway:

A brave friend, Natalie, (name changed, of course) posted on Facebook that she doubted the efficacy of changing one’s Facebook profile picture in the whole schema of actually preventing child abuse, that this effort actually was trivializing the issue. She has a point. Also she was troubled by joining a campaign “against” anything as she felt it was more important to be “for” something.

There was a little back and forth about the place of a social media awareness campaign and child abuse. I could not longer remain quiet when two friends, Natalie and Renee (ditto with the name-change), were struggling to understand each other. Renee, who did change her profile picture made note that merely visualizing safe childhoods for all was ineffective also. She has a point, too.

Here is my post in response to all of the above:

Okay, I’m in after biting my lip yesterday. Look, I grew up with all 31 flavors of abuse. So I know a thing or two about that. I am also on the board of four non-profits, one concerns domestic violence. I know a little about what is an effective public campaign and what is ego-gratification for the participants.

What I am seeing is a confusion of levels in all this. Robert A. Johnson writes beautifully about this topic. Confusion of levels is most apparent to us when a fundamentalist attempts to pray away his psychological problems. Prayer address spiritual matters, but one must do one’s psychological work to nurture and heal the psyche. Or when a Christian Scientist refuses an appendectomy surgery and dies as a result. Or when a New Ager spiritualizes his anger to the point of denying it completely, yet it leaks out all over everyone in his life. All are examples of responding to an issue from an inappropriate level.

I also sense that both Natalie and Renee intuit this confusion of levels. It makes Natalie angry that child abuse is being apparently trifled with vis-a-vis a Facebook campaign with cartoon characters resulting in no apparent difference. Renee as much as said that failing to respond to abuse head-on was an ineffective trifle as well. I have smart friends, both are correct.

No Facebook campaign will prevent a child being molested, beaten, abused or neglected—Facebook does not operate at a level that can reach the realm of abuse. However, it can be useful on other levels. As many charity/social issue campaigns are more about the “feel-good factor” for the participants, this Facebook campaign creates a tribe willing to speak that they have a stance on the issue. That is just fine.

That is why charity balls and various fundraisers are festive. . .the donors feel good about themselves. An imperfect system, but it does underwrite serious work being done in the trenches.

The Facebook campaign is merely a marketing tool to keep the issue of child abuse in the thoughts of the social media sphere for even a few minutes. At that level only is it a response with appropriate level traction.

Child abusers needs to be dealt with head-on. Child abuse is the abuse of power by an adult upon a child. It takes power to stop that abuse of power. It takes removal of denial and really straight talk about what happens. And we have to be willing to say that there is a perpetrator and a victim. Because on that level there most certainly is. Being “against” child abuse is a way of saying one is willing to use one’s power to stop perpetrators from overpowering their young victims. Our language fails us about what we are “for,” we know only what we are against at this level. This is lizard brain-level. When being attacked by a mugger, it is probably a little late to meditate and visualize safety.

Someone offering up quasi-spiritual theories about all of us coming here to learn lessons and that there are no victims in this life will have me foaming at the mouth when someone is indeed being victimized and needs help stopping/escaping/prosecuting a perpetrator.

Would you want a police officer to arrive at a scene of a child abuse case and begin theorizing that the beaten and molested child came to this earth to learn to be abused and perhaps to pay a karmic debt from a previous life? Oh, hell no. You want him to remove the child from danger—use his power—and stop the abuse at the level that it is occurring. Pronto.

As a child who waited years for someone to notice the bruises and tears—which did not happen—I can tell you that what I really wanted was someone to wrap their arms around me and tell me that what was happening was wrong and that I would be safe from here on out. If it takes a Facebook campaign or other such silliness to create even the chance that someone might notice the bruises for another kid sans the intervention, I can live with that, as incomplete as it feels.


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