Abuse, Punishment, and Intentions

To repeat: Abuse is, must be, a subjective determination: if I feel raped, I have been raped, if I feel abused, I have been abused. That is the criteria. Therefore, if a child has been subjected to punishment, and he has reason to doubt that the three conditions for punishment have been satisfied, for instance if he feels that his punisher has made no effort and doesn’t care if it improves the child’s behaviour (a likely assumption if there is no other attempt to solve the problems that resulted in the offence in the first place, only the unpleasantness and no lesson, no offer of other solutions. If the child is in some sort of bind where the crime is necessary for him), he will feel abused. This is not a rare thought, is it? Again: if I feel abused, I have been abused. That is the criteria.

It is one of the main points of this project that even ‘proper’ punishment of children is bad enough for them and for society, which I plan to show, let alone putting any sort of hurt on children without so much as an attempt at changing the unwanted behaviour. Retribution, practiced upon children, is counter-intuitive to the acceptable goals of society; clearly, in that stage of life and development, education must be the priority for any action adults take with the young. With no more productive lesson, pain for pain’s sake is not something we should be teaching. However, many children can also fall into the role of ‘repeat offender’, seeming to require endless punishment. In that case, as with adult criminals, the excuse of the intent to change behaviour cannot be supported. At some point, we have to admit it’s not working, and just not admitting it doesn’t count; our denial won’t transform retribution upon children into productive punishment. In this sense, retribution upon children may well be in itself a definition for abuse.

There may of course be many other ways in which intent fails as a condition of punishment, but again, abuse is in the mind of the receiving party, and children, especially young ones, have little hope of granting authority or intent the way we hope and so they will likely experience our corrective efforts as abuse. In that sense, intent can always fail, but if all else is identical, if an unauthorized person can impose something unpleasant on a child for the wrong reasons and it looks exactly the same as the ‘proper’ version, then what of intent?

In what other area of life, in what other sorts of interaction, when all things are equal, when actors, actions, and objects are identical, do intentions change outcomes? In what activities do we not have to consider what we do, but only our intentions? It may in fact be a fallacy for anyone to declare their different intentions if the actions are the same; if actions are not modified, then what evidence exists for modified intentions, let alone for different results?

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