Monday, June 8, 2015

A Parent's Fatal Mistake

A Parent's Fatal Mistake - Izabel Laxamana

It is always time to pause when a child commits suicide. A time to ask why and what could we do to prevent such a terrible thing from happening again.

But when a child suicides after being humiliated on a social networking site by a parent, it's time to ask, What the hell was that parent thinking?

A week ago last Friday, on May 29th, 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana of Tacoma, Washington jumped off the bridge of an overpass after her father punished her, then posted a humiliating video on YouTube of him scolding her. The original 15-second video has now been removed.

Were there other issues going on in this teenager's life? Most definitely. There are ALWAYS issues going on in the life of an adolescent. Which is what makes this whole heart-breaking situation so disturbing.

The trend to online humiliations by parents have become more commonplace in the past few years. And there are some who hail such parents as heroes for daring to discipline. Others who laugh at such practices, thinking them quite funny.

I'm not one of those people.

I do not believe it is reasonable to call this ill-advised practice "discipline". It is not in the best interest of the child for a parent to tell the entire world that their child messed up, and shame them so for that mess up. When parents take that route, they fail to take into account just what is going on in the child's life. Issues that could very easily take a child to her breaking point, as it may have in this case.

We don't know for sure why Izabel took her own life. But last year, she reportedly posted that she felt bullied at school, which would have left her feeling isolated and rejected.

Home is supposed to be a soft place to land. A place of refuge. Instead, Izabel's father betrayed and abandoned her like no other at school ever could. By virtue of his relationship to her, he could not have psychologically harmed her more.

Parents are the adults in the family home. And as such, have a duty to their children to act like adults. Public humiliation is nothing short of bullying, and has no place in raising healthy well-adjusted children. It is a childish act, one that needs to be condemned in both children and adults.

I'm encouraged that there has been public outcry over what this father did. But should he be prosecuted for child abuse like some are demanding?

He cut off all her beautiful long hair, then posted a video shaming her for doing something wrong—we don't know what. His humiliating actions were ignorant, and in my opinion, just plain wrong. Some might even call it stupid.

But does what he did qualify as child abuse?

Child abuse charges are highly unlikely. Even parental stupidity on this grand a scale doesn't meet the legal definition of child abuse. Not in this case.

This father failed on many levels.

He failed as a parent in determining appropriate discipline. He failed to see and understand just how much of a struggle his daughter was dealing with. What's worse, is that he failed to comprehend how his actions would pile onto the struggle she was already ill-equipped to deal with. And now this father will spend the rest of his days with all of this on his conscience. It is sad beyond words.

I can only hope that parents learn from this man's well-intended but tragic mistake. A mistake that may well have been the final push for his daughter to see suicide as the only way out.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dangerous Duggar Denials

It boggles the mind that Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting fame don't understand the danger they pose. And I'm incredulous that certain politicians and media personalities, as well as many in the conservative religious community have rallied around this family in support of their handling of the sexual crimes committed by their then-14-year-old son against 5 young girls, including 4 of his sisters.
But even worse than the Duggar cavalier and arrogant how-dare-you-all-condemn-us mindset is their near-complete disregard for the victims of their son, Josh, and their unmitigated hypocrisy against the LGBT community. 

The Interview:

To my dismay, but not all that surprisingly, Meghn Kelly of the Fox News Network handed one softball after another to the Duggars about their handling of the 2006 sexual abuse incidents by their eldest son in her interview on June 3, 2015. She didn't ask a single tough question.
Instead, she allowed the family head to ultimately declare his outrage that their privacy had been violated. That they were seeking legal advice over the fact that their son's juvenile record had been accessed and made public.
There is just so much to be outraged by THIS family.
They blame girls for the criminal sexual actions of boys and men, citing "a lack of modesty" by girls and women as male "temptation". Of course, since they themselves are so modest and teach their girls to be that way as well, how can they possibly explain the criminal actions of their son?
They don't. Not really. Except to repeatedly refer to his crimes as "improperly touching" or to further minimize what he did by calling it a "mistake".
The Duggars have decreed LGBT people to be child molesters and pedophiles. That children aren't safe around them. And they've done so KNOWING and covering up that their own son was himself a child molester.
I'm still at a loss to explain Jim-Bob's statement of what Josh did to these 5 young girls: "This was not rape or anything like that."
Or his claim that Josh, who is now 27, is not a pedophile because by Jim-Bob logic (and presumably the Mirriam-Webster dictionary definition) in order to be legally considered a pedophile, Josh would have to have been 16 years old when he molested those girls.
Ah yes, the "legal" definition is very convenient to latch onto now that this whole mess has become public and there is outcry over the way it was covered up.
But allow me to point out the fact that Josh molested at least twice again after first admitting to his parents that he had "inappropriately touched" these girls. That speaks to a far different story than what the Duggar patriarch is prepared to accept. Though both patriarch and matriarch are in complete agreement that Josh is now fixed of his urges.

The Victims:

And what of Josh's victims?
Michelle and Jim-Bob claim that their daughters didn't actually understand what was happening to them. Of course they didn't. They were too young and/or hadn't been taught about sexual abuse.
There is a long list of reasons to be outraged when it comes to this family.
The Duggars minimized what happened to the victims. They defended their criminal son and their subsequent cover up. And they see themselves as victims of an unfair media and Christian haters in this whole affair.
The highly biased Fox News interview on Wednesday was all about appeasing fans of the 19 Kids and Counting series and clearing the way for TLC to reinstate the show.
But the interview has not played well in the public eye. Sure, maybe their diehard fans and political allies will continue to give them a pass, but most of the general public has not. There was considerable social media backlash immediately following the Meghn Kelly interview.
It's hard not to find the Duggar's actions and stances despicable. They are hypocrites of the most dangerous breed. They condemn and cast stones at LGBT without any basis for such denunciations. They believe their faith allows them to convict an entire community of people of heinous acts when no such evidence exists, while they themselves cover up and soft-pedal repeated criminal acts because it was committed by one of their own. 

The Message:

And what about the message sent to the families who follow the Duggars so fanatically?
By virtue of their celebrity status within the far-right Christian community, the Duggar denials come at a great expense to victims. The people who inexplicably continue to hold the Duggars in high regard, take those denials and translate them as a model of how to handle such molestations within a family. The Duggars have schooled an entire group of people that victims of familial sexual abuse, particularly when the abuser is an adolescent, don't matter. Their actions and lack of actions have set us back decades. And that, in my opinion, is one of the most dangerous things about the Duggars.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Should We Deny Healthcare to Certain People?

Should We Deny Healthcare to Certain People?
Should we deny healthcare to certain people because of the choices they make or as a result of their risky behaviours? And if so, at what age should those exemptions begin to take place? 6 years? 26 years? 56 years? Where is society prepared to draw the line? And how often does that line move to include even more to be denied?

Recently, a social networking user posted a picture of two extremely obese women. One was drinking soda pop directly from a 2-liter container. One was opening up a bottle of dressing in front of an extra large pizza on the table before them.

The user and his followers were almost militant about us (whoever "us" are) not having to pay for healthcare for the women in the picture. He felt strongly that people should be tested every couple of years from the age of 6, and if they're eating and drinking "crap" as he called it, there should be no health insurance. That they should have to pay for it themselves. Others chimed in: No healthcare if you take drugs. Or drink alcohol. Or smoke.

And therein lies the slippery slope.

It is a very dangerous practice to pick and choose who does and doesn't get access to healthcare based on any set of limitations or discrimination. Even when the decision is based on a person's risky behaviour and the unhealthy choices they make.

There are so many questions that need to be answered within such a system that may seem sound on the surface, but can quickly devolve to a place that most of us don't want to go.

Who makes the decision? What behaviours cancel your healthcare? What over indulgence writes you off as a candidate to get medical attention, unless you pay for it yourself? What might the deniable include?

  • The middle-aged man who doesn't exercise and suffers a heart attack?
  • The 20-something-year-old who eats at fast food restaurants 3 or more times a week?
  • The man or woman who sits for more than 10 or 11 hours a day, some for a job, some not?
  • The 65-year-old male who eats red meat and it results in clogged arteries?

The list can get endless. So how far do we want to carry it?

  • The young teen who drives his car too fast and causes an accident and injures himself?
  • The woman who chooses breast implants that result in breast cancer?
  • The 8-year-old who plays with matches that result in 2nd or 3rd degree burns?
  • The college student who eats a steady diet of ramen noodles even though that's all he can afford?

Where do we draw the line?

And if anyone for one second thinks it's ridiculous to go that far, just check out the way of the world. Check out how Supreme Court decisions result in more and more of what we used to consider so far-fetched as to be out of the realm of possibility. Rights that were long ago fought for and won, only to be on the brink of again being lost.

And what of addiction?

When we make addiction--any form of addiction--a reason to deny health coverage, we ignore that the causes, be it drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food, any substance or behaviour at all, are all based in some form of emotional pain. Does not that pain deserve to be treated? Do we give up on someone because the pain they feel is hidden inside their emotions rather than inside their bodies?

And let us not forget the stupidity factor.

The moment we consider stupidity as a reason to deny someone health insurance, that puts us all at risk for being denied. After all, who among us hasn't made a choice at some point in our lives where we can now ask, What was I thinking?

So before we start talking about banning people from getting health insurance coverage, we should first check out our own risky behaviours and unhealthy choices. Behaviours and choices that could eventually lead to a host of health issues. Some earlier on in our lives. Some much further into the future.

And let us not forget that in order for such a system to work, we must have a central agency to collect the information. And that information must be accessible to some governing branch that determines whether or not you qualify as a candidate for heath coverage.

If we go this route, then ultimately no one would qualify. There would always be reasons to deny someone coverage. After all, insurance companies are not in the business of paying out, much as we like to think they are. They're actually in the business of making money. And what better way to profit than to take premiums from people, and then find reasons not to cover those very people when they need it most. This is one slippery slope I'm not willing to go down. Are you?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Facebook Refuses to Remove Baby Beating Video

Facebook Refuses to Remove Baby Beating Video
What does it take for Facebook to remove a post that shows explicit violence against a baby? Is the decision based on a certain standard at Facebook? Or is the decision left entirely up to the moderator there who looks at the post to make the call, based on what he or she thinks is appropriate or inappropriate?

Facebook took a great deal of heat several months ago for removing posts that showed women breast feeding their babies. They were deemed "indecent", then removed after complaints came in from users.

They took even more heat when it was shown that they allowed posts that depicted graphic violence, but took down what is the most natural thing in the world: a woman feeding her baby with her body.

Yesterday, to my disgust, I came face to face with an automatically playing video on my Facebook wall. The video showed a woman physically abusing a baby. It wasn't posted by someone I follow, otherwise I would have first dealt with it directly with my friend through a personal message.

The video showed up on my wall because someone I do follow on Facebook commented on the post, begging Facebook to remove it.

Since I don't know the person who put it up on his timeline, I decided to act directly with Facebook. Though I also sent the person a private message, after Facebook included his link in their response. I asked him to take down the appalling video. When I checked his timeline this morning, I was delighted to see that he'd had the good sense to remove it.

But in my view, that doesn't let Facebook off the hook.

For those who don't know, when you are confronted with an offending post, you have the ability to hide it. Just click onto the downward pointing arrow on the top right hand side of the post. You'll have options to choose from. It is only through this process that Facebook allows you to post a complaint. Which in and of itself is both bothersome and troublesome.

When you select hide a post, Facebook wants to know why. You're then given multiple choices. The complaint option comes up when you select offensive as the reason why.

Again, the options in the complaint prompt are multiple choice. Once you make a choice, you're taken to yet another screen until you finish the complaint.

There is no comment box to register additional information to plead your case beyond what Facebook offers as multiple choice when you select a predetermined option. I couldn't tell them that the video was showing a woman abusing a helpless baby. Which may or may not have changed the decision made by Facebook. Here was their response an hour after I submitted the complaint, under the email subject line "We reviewed your report":
Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the share you reported for containing graphic violence and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards.
There is something inherently wrong with any business's community standards when it finds that pictures of a woman breast feeding her baby are offensive enough to remove, but sees nothing wrong with a woman physically abusing a powerless little baby.

And just for the record, there was word that the video might have been a hoax. Even if that had been the case--which it was not--it was still depicting child abuse. Such depictions are just as unacceptable and offensive.

But also for the record, the video is legitimate. It was first posted some time ago in order for the woman to be identified and charged. Hoax-Slayer, a site that checks out the validity of posts, has left the following message and labelled the original post as OUTDATED:
Brief Analysis
The footage is genuine. However, the abuse took place back in 2011 and the mother was subsequently convicted and jailed for the crime. The baby was placed in foster care and was reportedly doing well. Circulating the message is therefore pointless. Police have asked users to delete the message rather than sharing it.
The last line is the important one: Police have asked users to delete the message rather than sharing it.

Facebook does not provide a way to ask for reconsideration of their decision. There is no appeals process that I can find. When they emailed me, they used a noreply response. So it was the end of the line for this complaint from me.

Facebook has set up their complaint feature in such a way that it is challenging to even find, which is plenty bad enough. But the protocol they follow to determine whether or not a post is unfit for continued sharing is unacceptable.

If physical child abuse doesn't violate Facebook's community standards, what does that tell you about Facebook? What does that say about the people making the decisions at the company?

Change can only happen when we stand together. When we share one voice on the issue. And I will use my voice and whatever I have access to in order to share this important message: that the depiction of child abuse is not appropriate material for sharing. I urge you to use your voice to get this message across to Facebook.