A CHILD IS BEING BEATEN: Violence Against Children, An American Tragedy by Naomi Feigelson Chase

A CHILD IS BEING BEATEN: Violence Against Children, An American Tragedy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Chase, who has worked for the NYC Health Services Administration and written for the Village Voice, identifies the real roots of child abuse as economic. Disputing the oft-heard claim that the phenomenon knows no class lines, she asserts that the brunt of the problem is borne by the poor (we wonder whether the rich simply fail to become statistics?). According to Chase it arises from crushing responsibility with no one to share it--in sum, sheer deprivation of friends, space, food, alternatives and above all money. A frequently encountered example is the welfare mother who, berserk with frustration after one of the kids steals (literally) her last dollar, burns the offender's hand on a hot stove. ""That woman didn't need a psychiatric workup,"" says a minor functionary of one such case. ""She needed more money."" The media, Chase claims, have narrowly focused on protecting and rehabilitating the victim rather than on defining the problem; the public has responded by supporting legislative and judicial assaults on the wrong end of the stick. Child abuse is now largely handled through the clumsy machinery of family courts and city counseling services which, dispense irrelevant, useless or cruel treatment like psychiatric aid for starving, desperate mothers, or bureaucracy-ridden quasi-legal supervision, or summary removal of children from parental custody on ill-considered evidence. Chase also documents the dimensions of child abuse in institutions--often including institutions to which children may be sent after being yanked away from parents who basically love and want them. The central fact that emerges is that a society which lets massive social malfunction and insane allocation of basic resources be defined in Band-Aid terms will continue to reap its harvest of Charles Mansons, Lee Harvey Oswalds, and their millions of nameless cousins. Chase's approach--marked by an exemplary refusal to sensationalize--is both sound and challenging. Her only flaw is an occasional tendency to use Marxist terms as a convenient tool of excoriation rather than analysis--thus leaving her point about the economic basis of child abuse only half-formulated. Still, a genuinely educating book.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1975
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston