12.16.2007

abuse = abuse, murder = murder

The terrible, early death of Aqsa Parvez makes me so sad. But it makes me so angry that her death is being credited to Muslim fundamentalism, or to immigrants, or to multiculturalism. None of those killed Aqsa Parvez.

Aqsa, 16 years old, was killed by her father.

Aqsa was an abused child.

She was a victim of domestic violence, a tidy little euphemism we use for assault that is perpetrated in our own homes, by the people who are supposed to love us.

Child abuse, always terrible, sometimes fatal, occurs in homes of all faiths and of no faith. It occurs in families of all colours and all backgrounds. It occurs in families of all income levels. It occurs in single-parent families and in extended families.

One of my favourite bloggers, Impudent Strumpet, had this to say.
Think about your own adolescence. Did you ever want to hang out with friends instead of being home when your parents wanted you to? Did you ever want to listen to music they didn't want you to? Did you ever want to dress in a way they didn't want you to? Did you ever want to throw off the trappings of their values and be your own person?

This same drama is playing out in millions of households all around the world. There are, of course, variations. Perhaps instead of a hijab, the clothing in contention is hemlines or cleavage or heels. Perhaps instead of Muslim beliefs, it's Catholicism or Mormonism or Orthodox Judaism. But it is happening. And in some of these families, they do beat up their kids for not conforming. Hopefully in most they don't, but in some they do. I don't have statistics on hand to back this up, but I'd bet real money that within the next year, some other kid somewhere in the world will be killed by their parents in a similar dispute, and they won't be Muslim or a new immigrant.

My own partner was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, and he rebelled, and he was punished. He wasn't abused physically, but he certainly was abused emotionally and psychologically, forced to choose between having a parent and a home, and being himself. Was this because of Christianity?

Reliable child abuse statistics are hard to come by. In the past, statistics skewed heavily to low-income families, because they were the ones that ended up involved with public agencies. Private doctors, teachers and coaches from upper-income schools, would look the other way. Police were seldom called. Now, thanks to the work of activists, laws have changed. Those people are now mandated reporters: if they suspect child abuse, and they must report it. If they don't, they are partially culpable.

So now statistics are slightly more reliable. But still, abuse occurs in homes that never become statistics. My own, for example. No agencies were ever involved, no reports ever filed. We just lived with a certain amount of fear and pain. Although not as much as Asqa Parvez.

But Asqa Parvez didn't live with fear and pain because she was Muslim, or an immigrant. Her death doesn't point to the limits of multiculturalism or some problem inherent in Canadian society.

Her death speaks to the powerlessness of abused children, trapped in the homes of their abusers, dependent on their abusers for sustenance, betrayed by the people who should be their protectors.

Some statistics on child abuse globally, and in Canada.

More on the current "blame multiculturalism" mindset coming soon.

9 comments:

Ryan said...

Yeah, I don't hear them blaming Bountiful, BC on Christianity or multiculturalism. It's just "a few bad apples," they say, whereas they blame this murder on Islam or multiculturalism. Do they think that if we didn't have official multiculturalism this wouldn't happen? Do they think that patriarchal attitudes are solely the domain of religion? Such hypocrisy, and while they sit around blaming one group for supposedly importing the attitude, the problem remains unsolved.

Lone Primate said...

I agree; I said something the same on The Hell It Can't, a blog in Rochester (not that the blogger there attributed it to Islam; he didn't). We have to be careful not to let conservatives attribute this to Islam. A man who is more driven by what his peers think of him than his regard for his own daughter can be of any religion, or none. This was about control, not religion. And if we let it become about religion, we tar millions of reasonable people with the same brush, while turning a blind eye to similar behaviour by non-Muslims.

Kristine said...

We have all heard numerous reports the reason why we feel Aqsa's terrible fate met with her that day,however I am disturbed as to the countless times we have read there were ongoing disputes between her father, brothers and Aqsa. The question here shouldn't be why this happened rather what measures are we prepared to take to prevent from anyone exposed to this tragedy. We should ask ourselves, why adults involved in her life on a daily basis (teachers, paralegals, friends parents etc)didn't report suspected child abuse to authorities. It is by law teachers and paralegals responsibility to report any type of suspected child abuse. Aqsa left home on two separate occassions. Why was Aqsa not accompanied by authorities to retrieve her items? These are situations we want to ensure are corrected so other children, women etc. are safe going forward.

I understand the loyalty many of us have for our friends privacy however let this be a lesson to all people concerned. There are times in our lives when we could be asked not to disclose something personal, but when it has to do with safty this is the kind of secret one cannot commit to. Having said this, it was reported that Aqsa was very open about her family challenges.

L-girl said...

Every time a child dies at the hand of her or his parents, those same questions are raised. Why was she not protected? Why didn't people see and report the signs?

It's heartbreaking to think of a young person trapped in an abusive home. And yes, by all reports, she was open about her situation.

And yet: she is dead.

impudent strumpet said...

First thing that came to mind when I read Kristine's post (although after typing this all out I realize it's only tangental) is how often various grownups told me that I was lucky and should be thankful to have strict and overprotective parents. I've seen advice columnists express the same sentiment, and I distinctly remember a female Toronto newpaper columnist (I'm thinking it has to be either DiManno, Blatchford, or Wente, but I'm hesitant to name names because I'm not certain) mention in passing that she's glad she had such a strict father or she would have gotten in all kinds of trouble. So maybe if there's a "strict = good" camp out there, it's harder for those people to get to "strict = abuse"?

I also remember when my sister and I were 15 and 18, an elderly relative seeing us for the first time in seven years said to my father "You'd better lock them in the house and buy a shotgun." The only thing weirder than that statement (I'd never heard that general sentiment before and had no idea where he was coming from) was the fact that none of the grownups present could understand why I would find it at all weird or offensive or take it as anything other than a compliment. (In retrospect, I wish I'd had the presence of mind to draw a comparison with Aung San Suu Kyi.) Since then, I've heard people say the same thing to parents about baby girls, again intending it as a compliment. I can't help but think maybe this is part of the problem. If a person can say in all seriousness "What a beautiful daughter you have! Better deny her all freedom!" it's less likely that they'll spot a problem when a parent is denying their daughter her freedom.

L-girl said...

none of the grownups present could understand why I would find it at all weird or offensive or take it as anything other than a compliment.

Oy vey.

Thanks for sharing that, ImpStrump. You make an excellent point, one I hadn't thought of before.

Yes, it's amazing (and not) how often you can hear people commisserating with the parents (especially fathers) of teenage girls, and the implication or assertion that they have to be locked up. I don't know if I've ever heard the equivalent about teenage boys.

L-girl said...

I also remember when my sister and I were 15 and 18, an elderly relative seeing us for the first time in seven years said to my father "You'd better lock them in the house and buy a shotgun."

Totally tangential, but I have a memory I want to relate.

Some elderly relative who I didn't know had died, and a bunch of other relatives I didn't know were at our house for a "shiva" call (the Jewish version of a wake, happens after the funeral). I was maybe 5 or 6, my sister would have been 10 or 11.

After being introduced to me, an elderly woman said to my mother, "She looks like a little shiksa!" "Shiksa" means non-Jewish girl or woman.

I was shocked, I couldn't believe someone was saying I looked not Jewish, or why they would say that. To me it was like saying I wasn't part of the family, or I was a freak of some sort. I asked my mother, Why did she say that? Why did she say I look like a shiksa?

My mother said, "She means you're pretty."

Then I was really outraged. Even at that age I knew there was something seriously wrong with telling a Jewish girl she looked not-Jewish and meaning it as a compliment!

Imagine the self-loathing involved there.

A long time later, I realized the woman probably said that because I was blonde. And I realized my mother was embarrassed by the woman's remark and didn't know what to say. But still.

Nikolas said...

What bothers me is that as an agency we couldn't even investigate anything because she was over 16. Ontario needs to change it's child protection laws to include 16-18 year olds, like BC, Alberta and Quebec....sigh

L-girl said...

Ontario needs to change it's child protection laws to include 16-18 year olds, like BC, Alberta and Quebec

Perhaps Asqa's death will lead to that. 16-18 y/o's are still living at home with parents, so they are surely in need of protection.