Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Shifting blame won't save kids

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Child abuse victim Serenity-Jay Scott-Dinnington. Photo / Supplied
Child abuse victim Serenity-Jay Scott-Dinnington. Photo / Supplied

It was one dead baby too many for me last week - and as I predicted, there's been another since.

As far as I was concerned, my diatribe last week was directed solely at women who allow their babies to be harmed. However, there were those who felt I was maligning all women, particularly those on the DPB.

One of those anti my column was Ross Brighton, an Auckland-based poet, teacher and activist and, after corresponding with him, I invited Brighton and Tove Partington, a solo mother, activist and member of the Auckland University Feminists' Collective, to respond:

"Kerre Woodham seems to have identified the culprits of our high levels of child abuse - 'dumb, stupid, needy, dysfunctional slappers [who] are failing at being mothers'.

She says they 'have children because they get paid to - and, let's face it, they wouldn't get paid to do anything else'.

Firstly, let's address the accusation that mothers alone are responsible for the potential abuse of their children.

This feels disturbingly comparable to blaming rape victims for their rape, on a par with 'that slut was asking for it'. No one is responsible for any kind of abuse, except the abuser.

To fight abuse it is imperative that we stop making excuses and shifting around blame. It is a sad fact that blame often ends up falling on those who are least able to fight back, such as impoverished mothers trying to get by on next to nothing, often working low-paying jobs to scratch together a living for their families.

These people, already suffering the effects of poverty and possibly cyclical family violence, need all our help to protect themselves and their families. Throwing abuse at them, calling them slappers, or sluts who 'don't know who their sperm donors are' is just perpetrating the abuse and prejudice they face on a daily basis.

We have no right to judge a woman for falling pregnant, or choosing to keep a child if she wishes to.

Secondly, it is incredibly worrying that the myth of women getting pregnant to get more DPB money is being trotted out yet again.

There is absolutely no evidence that this has ever been done. In fact, the amount of money one gets is a pittance, for which the woman has to go through nine months of pregnancy (including time off any work she might have) and undergo labour, all to gain another mouth to feed.

Raising a child on the DPB is not a career choice, it is a horrible half existence.

Even those with degrees and an acceptable background find it hard to struggle out of the career blackhole that is solo motherhood.

To fight the scourge of child abuse in our society we need to re-assess our attitude towards women and the poor.

Cutting funding to childcare services and the Women's Refuge has made things worse, particularly with the Rugby World Cup coming up (look up abuse statistics when the All Blacks lose if you don't understand this).

Oh, and cutting the Training Incentive Allowance wasn't particularly helpful; talk about shutting the door behind you. We need to reverse these moves and put support behind our vital social services.

We need to take concrete steps, not have people like Kerre, from positions of relative comfort, complaining about how horrible poor people are.

This only denigrates these women further and allows a smug sense of self-satisfaction."

- Herald on Sunday

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