Tuesday 20 August 2019

Comment: 'Parents must face 'monster under the rug' and teach child what's right'


Faced with terrible danger: The little girl in question fought back against her alleged attackers as her natural instinct for self-protection helped her to escape. Picture posed by model.
Faced with terrible danger: The little girl in question fought back against her alleged attackers as her natural instinct for self-protection helped her to escape. Picture posed by model.
Stella O'Malley

Stella O'Malley

The report about the five-year-old girl who was 'lured' to a shed and beaten with sticks by three young boys who allegedly attempted to sexually assault her is a chilling read.

Most of us prefer not to read about evil acts perpetrated by children as it disturbs the fairy-tale that every child is good; but the reality is that some children carry out really terrible deeds and we adults need to learn how to handle this.

The writer Robert Ardrey tells us that "we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides" and, with all this emphasis on positive psychology in the last 20 years, it seems as if we have forgotten that humans are animals and we have to teach our children to know right from wrong if they are to grow up to become fully functioning, decent adults.

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This isn't easy but it is necessary; because some kids left to their own devices can become like characters in William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'.

Many of us remember those disturbing kids from our own childhood - those nasty evil bullies who contained within themselves a malicious desire to inflict pain on other kids. These kids are often very behaviourally based; they are animalistic and they lack a sense of humanity. Sometimes events like this in childhood are signs of serious trouble to come but other times, if addressed properly, they can be successfully taught empathy, insight and self-awareness.

When we examine the context of children's behaviour in history, it soon emerges that some kids seem to become evil as a result of their upbringing and some children seem to have a darkness within them that needs to be addressed. A 1992 documentary called 'Child of Rage' shows shocking footage of little Beth Thomas calmly telling her psychiatrist exactly how she planned to kill her adoptive parents and her brother in the dead of night.

Six-year-old Beth had been severely abused as a young infant, and had already sexually abused her brother, tortured the family dog and killed a nest of baby birds.

But she has since been successfully rehabilitated and now lives a happy and productive life working as a nurse.

In 1993, two boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, randomly lured two-year-old Jamie Bulger away from his mother and subsequently tortured and murdered him. Thompson - the boy earmarked as less likely to be rehabilitated - never re-offended and lives in anonymity with his partner.

However, Venables has since been found with images of child sexual abuse on his computer and is behind bars again.

Evil is rare and, if we examine these cases within the context of wider society, we soon see that there has always been a certain element of darkness among us. The writings of Carl Jung describe how there is a 'shadow' side within all of us and the more we pretend it doesn't exist, the more likely that we will be unconsciously driven by this dark side of our personality. This is why the most helpful response a parent can make when faced with their children's evil behaviour is to turn and face the 'monster under the rug'.

The parents of these three boys, aged seven, eight and 10, will need to confront the fact that the boys carried out a malevolent plan to harm a little girl.

These children will need their parents' help if they are to become good people and, if their parents can't manage this, then it is society's role to intervene appropriately.

It doesn't actually matter whether it is the parents or society, what really matters is that these boys are comprehensively risk-assessed and, if it is appropriate, rehabilitated back into society.

Meanwhile, our collective hearts go out to the parents of this brave little girl who fought back against her attackers.

Hopefully, with the right support, this admirable five-year-old will emerge stronger as a result of this horrific experience, as she now contains within her the extra knowledge that, when it mattered - when she was faced with terrible danger - her natural instinct for self-protection helped her to escape.

Well done, little girl, I hope you thrive in life.

Irish Independent

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