Re: DSM: Dawn's theory about kids getting hit

From: Melanie Noviss (
Date: Sat Nov 17 2001 - 11:29:49 EST

Apples and oranges, Dawn.
What is really wanted here ? To stop that one child from being hit at that moment?

It sounds like you want that and also something else, that you want to end all
violence against children. That's wonderful, I'll stand beside you in both those
goals. I would like to save my rage for the larger social justice problem and
cultivate compassion for the first human one.
I don't want that one child to be hit anymore but am I really willing to do what
needs to be done to change that? I would have to get to know that family, to
understand their views, build a sincere trust between us before I could know what
to say that would have real meaning and potential to create change. I know I can't

do that for everyone who needs it but maybe I can do it for this family. And I
don't want to make things worse, create more suffering. I can't assume, without
more information, that I'm doing the right thing by yelling at the woman as she
hits her child. There could be many responses to that action and I cannot know
which ones are likely without knowing her and her child.
I think interfering with the action (the hitting) is needed but interfering with
the relationship is dangerous at that point. The minister's reaction had that in
common with yours, ie he interfered with the action. I'm not sure about what he
said either. In another discussion I had about this, a psychologist friend
suggested that the person doing the hitting is in a kind of trance and any
interference, even a loud noise like a hand clap, might be enough to interrupt it.

I believe that's all that can reasonably be done (on a bus was it?) at that
moment. That kid's life likely will not change for the better as a result of more
intereference in that moment.
The other tightly related issue is a social justice issue and there are many more
ways (such as protests, legal challenges, and even fundraisers) that I'm sure
you're already aware of, to approach that.
It seems to me that an even broader version of this issue, how society at large
values children, is integral to what is being discussed on this list-serv. Many
parents have taken a proactive stance towards something they believe to be better,

SVS being one example of that. How to transform current social values is an
ongoing process and the speed (or lack of) can be exasperating.
I share your frustration this, Dawn, and that is partly why I'm on this list, to
help me see if the effort of starting a SVM school is the right path for me. I've
been interested in this model for about eight years, since I first read Daniel
Greenberg's Free At Last. Lurking for the past several months has given me a
clearer idea of what is entailed. I suspect, as Joe said, that I would find some
of the personalities that this type of model attracts, er, challenging. Sometimes
I think that's enough to abandon ship. Still, I hold visions of how things could
be different for kids, for society, for me and my family. So I guess what I'm
saying is I'm trying to align my ideals with what is practically possible for me
to do at this time. And I appreciate the presence of this list to assist me in
doing that.
Melanie Noviss

Dawn Harkness wrote:

> How about this, hypothetically speaking:
> Let's say that instead of a child getting hit by a parent, one came upon a
> man hitting and humiliating his girlfriend in public. Hopefully, folks
> would come to her rescue, someone would call the police, and he would be
> arrested. (Talk about shame!) If she were smart, she would get a
> restraining order. He'd be criminally prosecuted and ordered into
> counseling and maybe even put in jail. And that in my opinion is the best
> available way to handle those situations. I feel the same if the person
> doing the attacking is a stranger to their victim. I think it is an
> indication of the level of societal acceptance of parental violence against
> children that when we move the hypothetical from children being the victims
> of violence, to adults being the victims of violence, I find I have more
> company in my approach to these matters.
> I wonder if those who think the minister's approach to handling abusive
> parents was such a great idea also think that the same approach would be
> effective in dealing with non-parental abuse: "Gee, some days it's hard to
> be in a relationship isn't it. Being a boyfriend can be so tough,
> especially when you are having a hard day. Is there something I can do to
> help?" Would any one really do that? I doubt it. I know my minister
> friend wouldn't. The conduct is essentially the same, but the legal and
> social consequences are different.
> Dawn


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