Time to open the door on domestic abuse in Thailand

FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2012

A lack of role models and social support is allowing violence within families to flourish


News of a woman killing her grandson grabbed the headlines this week. It was horrific to read that a 55-year-old grandmother confessed to killing the Bangkok schoolboy after an argument over Bt500. The woman reportedly struck him on the head while he was sleeping.
The tragic incident has prompted many questions, and one concerns the suitability of the grandmother to raise a child. Research into her background revealed this was not the first time she had killed a family member. In 1993 she shot and killed her husband, but was found innocent of murder after testifying that she had been defending herself against his assault.
The tragic death of the 13-year-old boy in this dysfunctional family could have been prevented by the intervention of a social-support system. 
The mother left the boy with the grandma when he was a toddler because she was unable to raise the child. The boy was raised by a family member who, judging from her violent behaviour, was not fully equipped mentally or emotionally to bring up a child. 
Unfortunately, the details of this case are not unusual. Reports of domestic violence are common, but proper solutions few. Among the most upsetting are the stories of parents sexually abusing their children. 
Thailand is becoming a more violent society, and conflict between parents, or between parents and children, is a daily reality. 
People who resort to domestic violence often have a history of such abuse in their own childhood. Such individuals have been raised without role models who could have shown them that differences are best sorted out in a civic and constructive manner.
Moreover, the repeated scenes of violence and sexual assault we get in the media and on soap operas can have a negative influence on some viewers. Although content providers claim the depiction of such abusive behaviour warns youngsters of its undesirability, impressionable children watch such scenes without parental guidance. For many of these youngsters, abusive behaviour seen repeatedly on TV becomes acceptable and something to be copied in their own lives.
Adults in real life often set a bad example as well. For instance, some Thai parliamentarians have resorted to violence rather than solving their differences through reasoned argument. They have fought on TV and sworn at opponents, even though their differences are simply ideological. Many people laugh at such incidents, dismissing them as foolishness, but others may get the impression they are the norm.
In Thailand, domestic violence occurs across all social classes, but is not properly addressed because the family members affected often feel too embarrassed to talk about it. Meanwhile, neighbours are reluctant to report suspected cases to the authorities because they think it’s not their business. In other countries, however, campaigns have been successful in fostering a sense of duty in neighbours to raise the alarm if they suspect domestic violence. 
Awareness of the problem, along with all parties’ willingness to cooperate in combating it, are key to the prevention of domestic violence. 
Children need to be raised in a supportive environment to help ensure they become good citizens. Students should be taught that violence never produces positive solutions. And education on the issue should not be limited to schools but spread to form social-support systems such as forums where people can share their experiences in how to deal with the problem. New parents should also arm themselves with information on how to raise their children properly. 
He family is the small, yet most important, cornerstone of our society. What goes on within this smallest unit defines what kind of society we live in. 
The tragedy of domestic violence is that it destroys what should be the safest place for our children – the family home.