What is child abuse and why?

I have a little book on my shelf about the history of Africa–not an exhaustive study or anything, just enough to make the point that folks weren’t running around like wild savages until white Europeans rescued them. That’s where I learned about Ibn Battuta, who visited the 14th century kingdom of Mali. He must have been impressed, because he listed its good qualities: the people loved justice more than anyone he’d ever met, almost no violent crime, everyone was honest, and

Huh?! If you tried that nowadays, it would make the front page of the papers, and your ass would be in court for abuse. Everyone knows that the poor kid would be scarred for life. And yet, neither ancient Mali nor Ibn Battuta’s homeland were filled with psychotics; people grew up, had jobs and families, and did just fine in their society. If anything, they were saner than we are: back then there was significant child mortality. How many babies could one of us lose before going stark raving mad?

Don’t get me wrong; putting chains on kids who don’t do their homework creeps me the hell out, too, but I have to ask, how do we decide what abuse really is, anyway?

I think you’re interpretting the interpretations of one man rather loosely. Is that really a society we want to model ours after if everyone was afraid of being flogged or killed by ‘the system’ if they so much as lied to someone? There’s a lot thats left out. Like how free of a society it was etc. You can’t have violent crime if anyone who so much as looks at the wrong people the wrong way gets their hands chopped off. Of course, I’m reading alot into that small passage, just like the OP is.

And to answer the question, I would say that the reality is anything that society deems as abuse is abuse, whether it be by political and religious leaders and followers or scientific studies on the long term affects of certain actions.

I expect that their entire culture was mad. Chaining their children was a symptom of that madness. As for his talk about how nice and orderly the place was; that’s what the inhabitants of tyrannies usually say; they don’t dare say otherwise. Remember, lying and propaganda are not recent inventions.

While Der Trihs may be a bit dramatic, he also may well have a point. (Yes, I did actually type that! Arrrgh!) The good points about the culture- loving justice, lack of violent crime, honesty- could also have been said about mid-1400s Wallachia under the wise & benevolent rule of Voivode Vlad Drakula Tepesh.

That said, how “heavy” was the heavy chain? Was it an annoyance or a true torment to the child? Probably no answer to that one- but I am sure anyone whose done child care has had times they wished for a chain.

Is that four horsemen riding up behind you?! :wink:

At some point, abuse is abuse. I mean, injury is injury. The question is clearer when you’re speaking only of physical abuse. But social context is surely not irrelevant, especially when the abuse is more psychological than physical. We learn what we’re taught. And if we grow up in a society that teaches us that the public humiliation of chains around the ankles is for our own good, it’s likely that we’ll come to believe that too.

But the streets weren’t filled with raving lunatics, utterly disfunctional neurotics, and completely uncaring serial killers: the types of utterly damaged people our culture would expect such treatment to produce. Yes, they’d go on to perpetuate such abuses, but this was not a society of Thomas Harris villains. They were still functional, still empathetic and moral in their way.

I think the answer to the OP is this: the human psyche is sturdier than we often give it credit for. Given a certain amount of social support (such as the fellowship of your fellow sufferers and the eventual acceptance of your tormentors) a person can bounce back from a startling amount of cruelty. The difference between them and us is that we’ve (rightly) disowned this kind of treatment, and thus removed what support their victims have. Someone treated like this in present-day America lacks the social context that helped 15th century Malian boys cope.