The background is that a couple of state legislators in Wisconsin are sponsoring a bill that would focus on single parents in educational campaigns about child abuse. It does not, as the headline says, “label single parenthood as child abuse,” but it does take a good idea (public awareness of child abuse) and turn it into an offensive waste of public funds by dragging the communication in a direction that will do nothing to decrease child abuse but quite a lot to increase demonization of single parents.
This is what we’re dealing with:
Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read:
48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
“The board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.” I don’t think the bill’s intent is to say that all single parents are child abusers, but taking the words literally, it could be construed as saying that all children of single parents are abused or neglected, but their parents’ failure to get and stay married is only one of the reasons why. I’m sure it’s just trying to go that extra mile to make sure we know that child abuse is positively correlated with single parenthood, but even that being the case, I don’t see what this new emphasis is supposed to accomplish. An awareness campaign that links single parenthood to child abuse is not going to convince absent fathers to get back in their children’s lives and marry the kids’ mothers. Let’s face it; when we talk about single parents, the families are not all, but mostly headed by the mothers. This is primarily an issue of pointing the finger at women who are raising children without the participation of the children’s fathers. Single mothers cannot simply flick a switch and suddenly have reliable partners in their lives. It would be more effective to address the causes of poverty, if the goal is to prevent child abuse.
They can’t force absent fathers to start acting like responsible family men, and they can’t force single mothers to meet new (trustworthy, responsible, loving) men who will instantly marry them and help raise the kids. Perhaps what they’re trying to accomplish is to discourage unhappily married parents from breaking up, especially if the mother is thinking about leaving her husband because he abuses her:
“If they can refind those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place it might help,” said Representative Don Pridemore.
Translation: “If your husband is beating you, it’s because you’ve forgotten about why you fell in love with him.”
I can’t seem to find the embed code, but there’s a video with the article, where you can see the bill’s sponsors going into more detail about why women with kids should stay in toxic marriages. It gets even creepier when Rep. Pridemore explains that it’s important for parents to stay together because fathers are the disciplinarians, and kids “tend to go astray” when their fathers aren’t around to keep them in line.
In the same clip, Dr. Geoffrey Swain of the Milwaukee Health Department tells us that poor quality of marriage (emphasis mine) is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect, and that raising kids in an unhealthy relationship does more damage to their mental health than divorce.
Listening to the representatives, one may start to think that when they bring up “child abuse,” they’re not actually thinking about how children are treated and instead simply mean any non-nuclear or non-patriarchal family. The guy who says abused women should just remember why they got married in the first place (because that’ll change their husbands’ behavior) also says that children need their fathers to be disciplinarians. This guy blames women’s negative thinking for men’s violence, and he acts like children will be less abused if they continue to see their fathers terrorize their mothers. Rep. Pridemore hates women, and it would be too charitable to say he doesn’t give a damn about children.