There's been a lot abuse and violence in the news recently.
There's the Labour MP who assaulted colleagues while under the influence. It is suggested that the same MP has serious issues with alcohol and also seduced a much younger female party activist. Then there's the SNP MSP, currently suspended, after the Sunday Herald published accusations of serial domestic abuse of the women in his life.
And there's been a stushie over a female SNP MSP comparing the relationship between Scotland and England in a newspaper column, to one where a "girl" is trapped, vulnerable and dependent, in an oppressive relationship with a "domineering man".
Meanwhile, Zero Tolerance Trust and YWCA Scotland published research indicating that youth workers are seriously concerned about the prevalence of abuse in teenagers' relationships. The study found that nearly 70% of the youth workers who took part in the research had encountered young people whose behaviour suggested involvement in an abusive or controlling relationship.
More than a third had also been confided in by teenagers who felt pressured into engaging in sexual activities they felt uncomfortable with.
Elsewhere, an audio/visual mural created by children from the East end of Glasgow was unveiled. Children from three primary schools were supported by the Children's Parliament to explore their feelings and views about what they need to feel safe. The Streets Ahead project aims to prevent violence and reduce the risk of violence in children's lives. What did the children have to say?
"Stop fighting, this is our street too."
"Don't let me out to play, there are people drinking."
"While you're hating, I'm sad."
"My safe place is in my cupboard because I have a cover in my cupboard and it's warm and quiet."
Messages from inside their houses include:
"Keep track of what you are drinking."
"Mum, I know it's hard for you."
"Dad, please think about when you were a child."
From the mouths of babes, as they say, and maybe it's time we listened a whole lot harder. Too many children grow up witnessing and fearing abuse between the adults in their lives: little wonder they begin acting out what they think as normal behaviour when they encounter the opposite sex in their teens.
Far too many – an estimated 65,000 - live with the blight of alcohol misuse and the violence that often accompanies it and as many children are afraid to go home as they are to go out.
It's time we faced up to this. By our actions and inactions, we are condemning the next generation – and the next – to more of the same. As adults we need to listen and start taking responsibility. The doing – in its proper sense – must begin in earnest.
We must encourage Scotland to fall out of love with booze. The Scottish Government’s minimum pricing law will help but it is but one of many measures required. We have to persuade adults with carrot and sticks that drinking to excess regularly is neither big nor clever and reduce our alcohol consumption.
We need more Streets Ahead projects which enable children to have their say. And we need more adults in positions of influence – the ones who plan and manage community spaces - to listen and act on their recommendations.
Zero Tolerance and YWCA recommend a rolling out of effective activities and initiatives to prevent violence, particularly to target young people who might not engage in school or education based work as the young people most at risk of experiencing abuse and exploitation.
The charities also suggest that policy-makers need to recognise the existence of largely gender-based abuse in teen relationships. In other words, we must all stop pretending that boys and young men do not abuse girls and young women.
There is a lot of good work going on "out there"; everyone acknowledges that Scotland has some deep-seated social ills we can no longer ignore; and we all know that more needs to be done to address the causes of these ills and prevent their occurrence in the future.
But there is still a lot of hand-wringing, of decision-makers fearful of consequences of shifting money from one area of activity into another, of vested interests setting their faces against change, either because they are scared of it or lack the knowledge or skills or simply feel threatened by it.
What's lacking is political leadership – and with their own recent examples of bad behaviour, you can see why the parties might be reluctant to lead. Yet, these incidents actually provide the very opportunity for politicians to step up to the challenge.
Rather than hiding below the parapet until the scandals go away, the parties should use them as a springboard for action. No one is exempt from our society's ills and the only way we are going to be able to address their symptoms and causes is to acknowledge that and agree to work together.
Yep, even politicians. For unless we are at least prepared to try to build a brighter future for children, we are bequeathing them a lifetime of abuse and violence, and of looking for safe places in cupboards.
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