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Published on Sunday, October 14, 2018

Dysfunctional system penalizes the victims

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Imagine that you’re a child, let’s say ten years old.

            Now imagine that you’re being abused. By someone you trust. Or fear. Perhaps an older sibling. Perhaps an uncle or aunt or your regular baby-sitter. Even perhaps, to tie in with historic children’s tales, by a wicked stepparent.

            Imagine what kind of courage it takes to speak out. To accuse someone that the rest of your family regards with respect.

            Now imagine having to tell the story of your shame and humiliation. Over. And over. And over again.

            First, probably, in the intimidating environment of the police headquarters, sometimes in the back seat of a police car, to an officer who you have never met before. 

            Then to medical staff at the hospital emergency ward, if they have to repair any physical wounds.

            And if there’s a possibility of criminal charges, you have to go to Kamloops for a forensic examination. Driven there by your parents, or your relatives – the courts don’t provide transportation. Imagine spending two hours in the back seat thinking about what lies ahead because the facilities for this exam don’t currently exist in Kelowna.

            But none of those agencies can change the family situation that made you a victim. The provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development can move you a safe place, to protect you. So you’ll have to tell your story all over again, once more reliving the trauma. 


Change the system

            This is the way the system works, at present. You may have to relive your trauma up to a dozen times. By then you’ve told your story so often, to so many different people, that you’re having trouble remembering what really happened. 

            Unskilled interviewers can easily plant suggestions while asking well-intentioned questions. In the infamous Martensville case in Saskatchewan in the 1990s, tales of satanic cults and barbaric rituals resulted from over-zealous questioning by an under-qualified police officer. 

            But it doesn’t have to be that way. A proposed Child Advocacy Centre for Kelowna could change all that, within a year. 

            Instead of multiple interviews, the child would ideally face just one. Done by a specially trained interviewer, but observed by representatives of all the agencies involved. The interview would be recorded, available as evidence should it be needed for a court case.

            Don’t blame the agencies for the nightmare described above. They’re doing their best in a dysfunctional system that too often treats victims as “collateral damage,” to use a war euphemism. Working on the front lines of child abuse is one of the most difficult jobs on earth. 

            The system itself needs changing. 


A better way

            And that’s the goal of the Child Advocacy Centre. To have all these agencies working under one roof, where they can put these children at the centre and dramatically improve outcomes.

            The Kelowna Foundation is the umbrella organization raising $6 million for a Child Advocacy Centre serving the region between Lake Country and Peachland. RCMP, Interior Health, and the Ministry of Children and Families all support this important initiative.

            The Centre would house space for RCMP officers specializing in child abuse cases; a specialized medical examination suite; and room for social workers, medical staff, child advocates and therapists. But instead of each group focussing on its own priorities, there would be a single integrated focus – the welfare and healing of the child.

            The Centre would also include facilities for training social workers, medical staff, and police in gathering information from children, while helping them move beyond their story of abuse.

            Six million is, admittedly, a lot of money. Four million is for the building, scheduled to start early 2019, completed by summer; $2 million would fund the first years of operation.

            But in the long run, it would be a saving.

            Statistics say that one in three children experience some kind of abuse.

            Children who have been abused are 30 per cent less likely to graduate from high school. They’re three times more likely to suffer from mental health and addiction issues; 26 times more likely to experience homelessness as adults; and – here’s the shocker – 46 times more likely to perpetuate violence in their own social relationships as adolescents!

            The Centre’s promotion booklet makes the point: “We need a better model to support not only the victims but the community of individuals linked to them: mothers and fathers, siblings, grandparents, teachers, and friends.”

            About $1 million has been raised or committed already for the proposed Child Advocacy Centre in Kelowna. Your gift to the Kelowna Foundation can help it happen.


Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.

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About my article last week, questioning the inconsistencies in economic theory and application, John Ugyan took me to task: “I generally enjoy reading your articles. However, this last one was very poorly done.

            “Your headline led me to believe that you would compare the two products, oil and natural gas. However, you did not mention any difference in the two, thereby trying to lead one to believe they are similar. 

            “There is a reason one is called natural gas. It's because it's natural. Unlike oil, natural gas and water do mix. Natural gas also evaporates. In the Deepwater Horizon accident, lots of natural gas as well as oil escaped into the water before the Macondo well was capped. Scientists determined that methane-eating microbes degraded much of that gas without evidence of serious harm to the environment.

            “It is not harmless, but in terms of an environmental disaster, you cannot compare the two.

            “But here I am, trying to give you a lesson on the differences between the two products. Your article should have done that, as the title implied.”

            John went on to cite another subject I had “failed” to discuss -- that carrying these products is riskier by train. Oh, well, I suppose missing two out of three isn’t bad….


Steve Roney made a similar point: “Natural gas is a gas, and is liquified only by being kept at extremely low temperatures. If, then, a tanker carrying natural gas were to rupture, the gas would not linger to kill any marine life. If it did not ignite, it would fairly rapidly evaporate and disperse into the atmosphere. A danger to the crew, no doubt, but not to the local environment. The same would be true were a natural gas pipeline to leak.”

            Both Steve and John ignore the fact that environmental effects of natural gas (methane) would not be limited to the local area; methane is about 40 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon-dioxide.


John Martin was more sympathetic to my errors: “I read your newsletter for the commentary and theology, not the chemistry. But I can't let your Kekulé/carbon/Ouroboros thing go uncommented. Kekulé's contribution was to propose the structure of benzene with its six carbon atoms in a ring…” 


Ray Shaver, once a senior executive with Texaco, wrote, “Your article appears to me to be all negative. The ever-widening gap between the super-rich and the rest of us is a top concern of mine, as is also the ever-increasing power of large corporations over the citizenry our democratic freedoms and our economy.

            “On the other hand there are some benefits associated with projects like the gas plant. They open up opportunities for workers, existing and new. I believe as we come under the increasing effects of the advancement of artificial intelligence, jobs will be in diminishing availability.”


Tom Watson summed up, “The only economic certainty that exists is this: Money wins! It may take a while but it always wins.”


Bob Rollwagen took his own swipe at the circularity of economics: “Nice summary. Steven Harper has a new book out trying to explain why citizens mistrust government. Current  levels of taxation are clearly changing the balance of power. The rich are getting richer and the middle class is trusting that they will benefit, and seem blind to their declining ability to get ahead.

            “The rich blame high taxes for our social problems. Manufacturing is declining in North America because a small group has forgotten why their ancestors came to the new world. The wealth gap has widened and care for society has been replaced by entitled social expectations.

            “Why do some feel entitled to put 40 cents of every dollar into saving while the larger segment of society has nothing left after paying for diet and adequate housing? The rich (2%) want even more. Then there is the 20% that doesn’t have even an adequate income, so we feed their kids at school.

            “No government revenue, no social policy, and around we go again.”


Judyth Mermelstein had her own view: “I'm no economist but I have been called a witch (and worse) so I'll hazard an explanation:

            “What humans seem exceptionally good at is rationalization. That is, they decide what they want and look for reasons that will justify what they do to get it.” [Judyth then gave a number of examples, from history.] 

            “With my crystal ball, I see that at every stage there was a leader, or someone currying his favour, who cooked up a theory for why what he intended to do anyway was the right thing to do. 

            “In earlier times, it might have been a bard flattering a chieftain or a priest advocating a crusade that presented opportunities for plunder. In modern times, it's almost always an economist, claiming a rational ‘scientific’ explanation for why the rich should exploit the poor without hesitation or mercy.

            “Sadly, my crystal ball also tells me the ruthless and selfish, like the poor, are always with us.”






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To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. (This is to circumvent filters that think too many links constitute spam.)

                       Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                       Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                       Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                       I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                       Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                       Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet






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