|Written by Erin Pizzey||Sunday, July 13, 2008 10:12 AM|
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Seventeen teenagers commited suicide in Bridgend, South Wales. Nineteen teenagers have been stabbed to death this year in England. There are very faint brave voices trying to get across the message that the primary responsibility for the violence in the children across the Western world is the destruction of the family.
Millions of hysterical words are written everyday in the newspapers internationally trying to address the problem of children who kill or kill themselves. In Wales a mother sits in front of television cameras and argues that her son died because the media glorifies the suicides that have taken place and the responsibility of her son’s death lies in the hands of journalists and television cameras. There is no acknowledgement that the primary responsibility for the actions of children must lie in their parenting. Warm, loving, harmonious families very rarely produce murderers and suicides. I believe that dysfunctional, violent and sexually abusive families produce the bulk of all crimes and suicides across the world.
A few brave voices have been raised in England arguing for a closer look at the families that have lost their children in Bridgend. The same voices have questioned the families of the 19 teenagers who have stabbed the victims to death in England this year. There is an almost poisonous miasma of fear around these questions. There is a conspiracy of silence but looking beneath the bully culture of politically correct opinion, I think I can see why the conspiracy is in place.
Men, for the last forty years have been shunted out of family life as a matter of political policy. In the early years of the radical women’s movement across the Western world, the new family order was touted to be women and their children. Fathers became expendable as the State took the traditional responsibility for fathering away from men. The courts could remove the men from their homes and take large sums of money from the fathers, and should the man be without means to pay, the State could fund the woman and her children. Either way, the father’s role within the family was redundant.
In 1971 mine was the only refuge dedicated to the plight of victims of domestic violence. Even then I made it clear that women could be just as violent as men. However, once the courts were made aware that the cases coming up in front of them from our refuge were genuine and that the violence the women and children suffered from the men in these families required drastic measures, the courts responded appropriately.
What caused the controversy and my persecution was my evidence that many of the women in the refuge were violent and were unacceptably violent towards their children. Even if I managed to stop the violent man from re-entering the children’s lives because he was a danger to them and to their mother this still left me with the dilemma of the violent and dysfunctional mother. This is when my concept of the need for a therapeutic community was born.
Those of you who have followed my work will know that almost immediately I set up the refuge for women and children, I also managed to find a house at a pepper corn rent for men. I was unable to raise any funds from any source to support the need of fathers fleeing violent women or even to support men who wanted to come to terms with their violent past.
In the intervening years I watched the break down of marriages, the rise of the single parent and the state subsidy of a single parent life style. Certainly, I was grateful to the state in England for the money. Women fleeing violent relationships before I opened the refuge were told to go back to their partners. Now it was possible to get support for victims of violence and for women abandoned by their partners. What I had not envisaged at that time is that the well meaning and compassionate support given to victims would result in the creation of a social upheaval that completely redesigned the structure of our society.
I was despised and ridiculed from the very beginning of my work for daring to talk about the role of violent women in the families that came to my refuge. In the very early days the militant left blamed ‘capitalists’ i.e. rich men for all the ills of society. By the beginning of the seventies women turned on all men and blamed ‘patriarchy’ for everything. What was left out of the equation as usual was the role of women in wrong doing. As women and particularly as mothers, women were exempt from any wrong doing.
As men were either pushed out of their families or were feckless and abandoned their partners and children, an army of single parent mothers and children grew into unimaginable proportions. The majority of women suffered and tried their best to raise their children on miniscule amounts of money allowed by the state. They were only too aware of the strains of raising their children single handed without fathers. However, many women were as feckless as the men they chose as partners. Unable to prioritize the needs of their children, promiscuous and often violent, they terrorized their children and their neighbourhoods.
Many times I have talked with exhausted social workers about what is happening on the vast estates across England to the families without fathers. Some homes do have fathers but most have not. They are very dangerous places and when fragile innocent women find themselves rehoused on those estates the prognosis for the family is dire. They are discriminated against and their children are bullied and harassed. In my day social workers called the dysfunctional families ‘dustbin families’ now the pc words are ‘socially excluded’ and less pc ‘the underclass.’
We are guilty of the burgeoning ‘underclasses.’ Successive governments have ignored these families at their peril. I did a small study many years ago counting the children that my violence prone mothers brought through the door. In those days the average was 2.1 children per family. In my families I could point to 5.1. children. Because most of the women were promiscuous, many of the children had different fathers. Hoping to hold on to a man resulted in the woman trying to carry his child. I warned then that in time those ‘feral’ children who were denied good loving parents, decent education and job opportunities would flood our streets.
In fact this is what is happening now. While it is the boys that largely murder, maim and commit suicide, the role of the girls on the streets is just as abused and abusive. The ‘gang culture’ is now the ‘family’ for children alienated and excluded from their families and from their schools. For the children denied good role models from their absent fathers, many are also deprived of any love, warmth or protection from their mothers. Is it any wonder that they join gangs that become surrogate families?
After the death of my mother when I was seventeen, I ran away from my family and ended up in a hostel in London. Very soon I discovered a gang of young teenagers living on the embankment and before long I joined them. It was a different time and place. There was some violence but not amongst our teenagers. I remember with great affection all those young teenagers who, like me, had suffered in their parent’s hands. They understood me and I understood them. We took care of each other, something that had not happened in my life. I can well understand the ‘gang culture.’
A child like me who was hated by my mother and disliked by my father would naturally find solace in a gang of other children. To the outsider the gang-related violence is abhorrent. To the teenagers in the gang it is normal. Why not? If all your life you have been beaten and have watched your parents beating each other, the violence has long become a way of life. ‘But surely,’ the well meaning say, ‘But surely if you’ve spent your childhood in a violent family the one thing you would not want to do is to repeat it.’ Violence is a learned pattern of behaviour in early childhood. These teenagers are ‘marinated in violence,’ a wonderful description I read in the work of Dr. Bruce Perry. Most will continue the violence they witnessed and suffered as children, a few will ‘transcend’ the violence and make good their lives.
Although I believe that a dysfunctional and feckless father in a family is a tragedy, I also believe that when the mother is unable to mother her children and is violent towards them and unable to offer them love and approval, then the effect on her children is truly catastrophic. We now know that young babies’ brains are plastic and much of the brain is formed by the very early experience that the child assimilates from the primary carers. In my families, fighting, screaming, throwing of objects, swearing and using knives and other weapons constituted a ‘normal’ life for the children that came to my refuge. I also noticed that while the boys showed much greater signs of physical aggression and explosive behaviour, the girls responded by imploding with anger. They mutilated themselves, suffered from eating disorders and bullied the younger, weaker children.
Until we are able to discuss the lack of both mothering and fathering in these children’s lives, the violence on our streets will continue. Until mothers are also held responsible for their behaviour towards their children we will not see much change. It is probably too late for millions of feral teenagers in England. The only chance they have is if the government of the day decide to reintroduce a form of National Service. All children from the age of sixteen to eighteen who are not taking a place in higher education must join up. I remember my cousin Michael who was orphaned at a very young age. He left school and was on a hopelessly downward trajectory. I also remember seeing him arrive at our front door with a friend both scrubbed and polished in their army uniforms. Saved by two years structured and disciplined living, he went on to become a successful business man and father. National Service saved a generation of children in the fifties and it could save this generation if we ignore the limp protests of the liberal brigade and get on with the business of saving our fractured society.
Copyright © 2008 Erin Pizzey, All Rights Reserved
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