|2002 10 07
Below is a transcript of this
week's radio commentary (recorded Friday) for the Free Congress Foundation available
for listening and downloading at http://www.fcfnewsondemand.org/.
Previous commentaries are also available for
listening and downloading at http://www.fcfnewsondemand.org/subjectindex.asp.
Another Violent Mother
The media has discovered another dangerous mother. Madelyne Toogood was filmed
beating her 4-year-old daughter. Social workers have seized the child, and everyone waxes
Why do the media focus on a few sensational cases of maternal child abuse? By
exaggerating these cases, the media imply that they are exceptional. In fact, violent
mothers are a dime-a-dozen.
The sensational cases tend to fit an acceptable profile. The media focused on Andrea
Yates for the killing of her five children not because the act was unusual but because she
represented what the media dislike. She was a married, stay-at-home mom, an evangelical
Christian, and a home-schooler. The implication was that the stresses of this life led to
But Yates and Toogood are not typical. Yes, children are beaten and killed by their
mothers all the time. Sidney Johnson, president of Prevent Child Abuse America, says,
"The unfortunate truth is that this is an all-too-familiar scene that happens every
What Mr. Johnson does not tell us is that most abusers are single mothers who have
removed their children from the protection of their fathers. Fathers are the natural
protectors of children. "Contrary to public perception," writes Patrick Fagan of
the Heritage Foundation, "
the most likely abuser of a young child will be that
Mr. Johnson says we need to "provide all parents with the appropriate tools,
resources, and support so they never resort to this kind of behavior."
Likewise, University of California psychologist Daphne Bugental says we need to equip
abusive mothers with "problem-solving skills" through government programs.
In truth, what we need to do is to stop taking children from their fathers. We know
from years of research that the one thing that can bring child abuse under control is the
presence of a father. Since this would require political courage, it is much easier to
Spending money is a good way of avoiding problems. Spending money makes us feel good
about ourselves and allows some of us to make a living by perpetuating the problem.
Another politically inexpensive way of pretending we are doing something is to put
people behind bars. If Madelyne Toogood receives a draconian sentence, it will also be
unusual, because most mothers are not punished for harming their children. But with all
the publicity, Madelyne Toogood is a good candidate to be made a scapegoat. For the
beating of her child is a standing reproach to our cowardice in refusing to face the real
causes of child abuse.
For FCF News on Demand, this is Stephen Baskerville