“Using a child or person in a weaker situation for your own advantage or profit”
The Dickens novel Oliver Twist is a good example of abuse because it is a sticky blend of ‘kindness’ and ‘good for the child’ – after all Fagin is providing a home and food and some attention/love – with reality: using the child for profit with no genuine concern for his welfare.
In this example, where does the kindness end and the cruelty start? That there is such a tangle of love and cruelty in abuse of all kinds is one of the things that makes it so difficult to see at times… Particularly when you are the one being loved but occasionally treated cruelly.
Children learn naturally and are particularly easy to exploit: often they don’t know right from wrong yet and don’t resist your teaching until it’s too late. They don’t realize the consequences of their actions or, if they do, they feel helpless to change ‘the way it is’.
Abuse of all kinds is often a tangle of good and evil, which often makes it so difficult to see, particularly if you have been embroiled in it since childhood.
Exploiting, adultifying, corrupting, all are abuse and include “making excessive age-inappropriate demands of the child for the gratification of the adult”.
In child pageants, little girls are encouraged to copy the already controversial behaviour of older girls. The children are often willing and even enjoy elements of what they do, prompting denials from the parents that anything other than the interests of the child are at stake. However, few children enjoy diets, sitting for hours while their hair is dressed or being unable to play.
The end result is that we, as responsible adults reap the financial benefits of these pageants and mold these children into women – and their brothers into men – who are ripe for abuse in the future.
Child labour is also abuse: adults making a profit from cheaper child labour. Again, as with Dickens, it is complicated by economic factors.
We all create the society of our choosing, including a society full of greed, abuse, selfishness, injustice and emotional pain.