Guest Author - Kelli Deister
The role of society, in regards to child abuse, is key to prevention. Our society, as a whole, must make some changes. New and stronger laws must be implemented, while some of the older laws must be reformed in order to bring about change.
There are several areas of change that I would like to highlight in this article. The first being how our society views men and women in general. From the time a child enters Kindergarten, they do role playing. The boys get ready and leave for work and the girls stay at home and take care of the house. Another viewpoint is that the boys feel they must be the prince or the rescuer while the girl is the one that needs rescuing from a prince. Many movies portray this role playing as well. Cinderella had a prince that rescued her. Snow White needed a prince to save her. The list for this type of role playing goes on and on.
As children grow, they take what our society has taught them and begin to think using those ideals. It is my opinion that it is stereotypical thinking and believing. The boys, according to our society, are supposed to be big and strong and able to rescue. The girls are supposed to be overwhelmed with the fact that the boys can do the rescuing. I think Mulan is the first movie I remember that doesnít have this stereotypical reasoning behind it. Instead, Mulan is an independent soul. However, at the end of the movie, the boy she likes comes to her house and she is smitten, as are her mother and grandmother. Interestingly, she dressed as a man. However, she did the rescuing. It was a refreshing change.
In high school, those same children listed above begin to act out what they learned when they were much younger. The girls look for boys that can save them or rescue them. They look for their prince charming. The boys take on a serious role of being the provider and rescuer. This is where abuse begins, in my opinion. The boys may mistakenly think that they are the superior person, because they are boys, and begin to treat their girlfriends as inferior. This is where the abuse begins. The girls may be confused as to their role in the relationship. They may think they are stuck in that type of relationship because that is how they grew up thinking.
How is our society supposed to bring about change? Where does it all begin? I believe that children, early on, need to be taught to respect everyone, regardless of gender. Boys should respect girls and vice-versa. There is no person superior over another in regards to relationships. Relationships should be about equality on both sides. If children are taught, from Kindergarten on, to respect everyone else, that thinking would hopefully remain with the children throughout their life. In high school, it is also about respect. Itís about boys and girls having equality and respect for each other.
Our society must educate everyone on the issues of abuse. It needs to start at a young age. One idea would be that children in elementary school are given role models to follow that mirror respect for all people. They should also be taught that no one is to hit another person or practice name calling. An idea for our high school students might be to address them through assemblies. Guest speakers could come into the schools and talk to the students about equality and respect. There should also be times set aside to bring in women, or men, that have experienced abuse and now share their stories to educate others.
The more education there is with our youth, the better the chances of breaking the cycles of abuse. Education, as I have said before, brings about prevention.