28 March, 2009

Is the Key to Violence Awareness?

andrea 110
Originally uploaded by elward-photography
When I became a mother, a part of me shied away from the horror I had enjoyed all of my life. The years of reading Stephen King and watching bloody horror films... I suddenly realized that not only was I someone's mother and had to be a good influence, but that the horrific things in a lot of those movies were even scarier with a child to think about. This was even truer when it came to psychological thrillers like the original "Last House on the Left," and films of that caliper.

As she began to grow, and we started to return to some of the horrific things that had once attracted us like spectators at a train wreck, I heard more and more about horror and violence being responsible for outrageous societal horrors like Columbine. Then the so-called experts started saying that allowing children to watch television and film violence and experience violent video games desensitized them.

It's easy to fall for that when you have nothing in front of you to compare it to, but history is ripe with violence, including thousands of years of war, atrocities like the Spanish Inquisition, various witch trials and the Holocaust, and bloodthirsty killers like Elizabeth Bathory and Gilles de Rais, just to name two.

For centuries, human nature compelled mankind toward brutality, but as we became (supposedly,) more civilized, we started to cry out against the violence we carried with us from the very cradle of civilization itself.

As I grew into adulthood, having experienced some pretty evil things in my life, I was surprised to learn how many other people, men and women, who had suffered the same types of atrocities that had been committed against me as child. The more people I learned of this from, the more I started to think that the world itself was going mad.

Then it hit me. The world was always mad; we just have the means of telling more and more people about it thanks to the constant growth of communication and media. The truth is in our history, probably embedded in our very DNA. Mankind has been on a spiraling power struggle since he climbed up out of the swamps and staggered toward a cave. He stopped long enough to club his fellow cavechick on the head along the way, and dragged her off against her will. Another man came along, coveting the cavechick of his neighbor. The first brutal acts of rape and murder all within the first few hours of on two legs...

Yes, I realize I'm being blase about the whole thing, as if I know. I probably don't, but I do know that blaming television, films and video games for violent behavior is not the answer.

As a mother, I have always felt it was my top priority to be honest with my child about everything she asked me. If she asked about sex, I geared our conversation toward her age level. If she asked me about murder, I approached it from a standpoint she could digest. Opening the lines of communication with her when she was old enough to speak may seem like I didn't offer her much of a childhood, but she is so innocent compared to her group of friends. Her thirteen year old best friend just went through a pregnancy scare and was ready to commit suicide rather than tell her mother about it. We sat down and talked about the situation, the consequences and the behavior like human beings, and while I know she'll make her share of mistakes, I also feel confident that she would come to me, rather than commit suicide or homicide over them.

I know I've rambled along here, referencing some pretty crazy things that might even seem random to you, but communication is the key. I know it is. This last week, I found myself in a position no mother of a teenage girls wants to be in. A fifteen year old boy on the school bus was literally trying to molest my daughter. A fifteen year old boy whose parents don't pay attention to him, who has no sense of self or community. The really sad thing about the whole ordeal is that in reporting the incident, she finds herself "punished" by having to limit where "she" sits and goes. But the thing is, she came to me. She came and told me what was going on even though she was afraid I might resort to "violence" and murder the little bastard.

It all boils down to awareness and communication, maybe even a little bit of acceptance. Violence is a wretched thing, whether it's against our fellow human beings or even animals, but it does happen. Being made aware of the difference between what is real and acceptable and what is not acceptable at a young age may hold the power to make all the difference. Maybe I'm wrong. *shrugs* But I do know that my fourteen year old isn't going to be heading into school with a shotgun in her lifetime, no matter how much the jerks at school tease her.


Pan Historia said...

I totally agree with you. Communication with our kids is the key, not wrapping them up in bubble wrap and leaving them unprepared for the world without anyone to turn to because we never told them the truth in the first place..

Jenny Beans said...

Pan Historia, you said it well with the bubble wrap. I read a book when I was a new momma about not following our kids around and saying things like, "Oh, be careful," or "You're gonna fall." Let them fall sometimes. They need to know that things are dangerous, not be "told" about them. My mother thought that was crazy. I tried it with my daughter and I think she's more likely to try things she's afraid of than she would have been if I had "be carefulled" her all her life. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Susan said...


You have done the most essential thing a mother can do for a daughter-- provide a non judgmental non threatening sounding board that fosters communication. The next several years will be filled with many more tough experiences--but with you as a resource, your daughter will come out tested and strong, with no open wounds.

AravisGirl said...

Excellent insights! And very true

P.S. Adam and Eve's first son murdered their second because he was jealous of him. And their certainly weren't video games or anything to desensitize then (Know you probably don't believe in it. It just had never occurred to me before):D

Jenny Beans said...

Thank you for your kind words, Susan. :)

AravisGirl, you are right, I am not a Christian now, but I did spend several years of my life as a Christian, and studied Christianity. They are still valid examples of historical violence, as far as I'm concerned. Great points. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I always look forward to your thoughts. :)

Morgan Mandel said...

I don't have any kids, but you make a lot of sense here. Sounds like you're doing a good job.

Morgan Mandel