Are Free Contraceptives Really the Answer?

Growing up unwanted, neglected, abused, and in poverty is too great a debit balance in the bank account of life to not give more serious thought about the children we bring into the world, and why.

As New Zealand’s welfare bashing continues over the Government’s proposal to offer free contraceptives to female welfare beneficiaries, political hopeful Colin Craig has stuck his boots into New Zealand’s ‘promiscuous’ women by opposing such a move. Well after all, he argues, why should a 70-year-old woman who has been monogamous all her life, and other taxpayers, pay for blatant promiscuity in a society that, during my own teenage years, shamed women for having a child out of wedlock?

Somewhere along the line Craig has forgotten that the taxpayers already fork out to support the pregnancies no one wants from such ‘immoral’ acts. Also forgotten is the lack of responsibility shown by the men towards emotionally and financially supporting the children they father with these ‘promiscuous’ women. Why should they take any responsibility when the government takes care of that? Double standards still exist, it seems.

We may laugh at Colin Craig now, and call him naïve, but with his right-winged misogynistic attitude based on ignorance, and without any research or attempt to really try to understand the underlying causes of this particular social issue, he is poised to influence an increasing hard core of welfare bashers determined to create more shame within the already suffering abused and disadvantaged people who never learned to pull themselves up by their boot straps because they were never given the emotional tools with which to do so, and without the good start in life that many take for granted?

Colin Craig is also an advocate of parents’ rights to smack their children. Violence is endemic in New Zealand where, since colonization, it is still seen by many as a normal part of child-rearing practices. The evidence of this is carefully laid out in print for us all to see within Mike Johnson’s book, Dumb Show, published in 1996.

In the bathroom, it is Uncle Honk’s belt, Seth, who rules, and Uncle Honk is its instrument. The smooth brown leather writhes and twists in his hand, urging him on in a sharp, whistling voice to use the buckle end. Seth is saturated with the oil, sweat, piss and bile of Uncle Honk who works it with a will…

Like the boys, the girls have to take down their pants, bend over the toilet seat and submit to the mercy of Seth. Pleading and whining merely angers Seth further… [O]n this point a common ethic binds the children. They will not scream. They will not let the sound out of their bodies. So they screw up their mouths and block up their throats and hold their screams inside their skin…

The truth is that people often punish those who fall by the wayside when they can no longer keep their screams inside. Like children in a playground, welfare bashers assert, “It is not fair that they should get a hand-out when I have suffered just as much and still managed to get out of the hole my parents dug for me as a child.” The truth is that we are all different, with different sensitivities and states of woundedness that either cause us to fall and become victims of further abuse, cause us to become predators and do unto others what was done to us, or cause us to hold all those screams inside until something else causes us to break down. And often that is our health.

As a teacher I was privy to seeing how a child’s home life impacted their ability to learn and make progress in school. Even laziness and resistance to learn had its roots in learned helplessness about how powerless they felt to change an abusive situation against the all-powerful parent or caregiver who controlled every aspect of their life and happiness.

As a counsellor I was privy to seeing how childhood abuse impacted every level of a person’s life from their health and well-being, their ability to provide a more loving home for their children, and their ability to break negative behavioural patterns learned in childhood to create a more positive and happy life for themselves. Sadly, only a very tiny minority could even begin to face the pain of the past so they could heal, let alone make lasting changes.

It takes a lifetime of persistence and commitment to change one’s life for the better. It takes self-love to even begin the journey with courage. Unfortunately, most never make it to the self-love stage. Why?

How can a person learn self-love when they are subjected to abuse that destroys their world view at a very early age, along with their self-esteem and self-respect; abuse which clearly demonstrates that they are definitely not loved, but are merely an object for the sexual gratification of the adults in their lives, or a scapegoat for their frustrations and own low self-esteem? My counselling files are full of the depressing facts of such stories and the women and men who cannot rise out of the depths of depression, the anger and rage, and the post-traumatic stress that are the inevitable fallout from their stories.

The only way to fling out of sight (and therefore out of mind) those ‘promiscuous’ women with their unwanted children and others who end up on welfare – often due to circumstances beyond their control – is to scapegoat them for the ills of society in a similar way to how they were scapegoated within their families. What do the welfare bashers care about the circumstances and situations surrounding their births and childhoods that make it nigh on impossible for them to move out of the cycle of abuse and/or poverty that we, as a society, turn a blind eye to? Then many people inflict more abuse by shaming them for seeking security on welfare – probably the only security they have on offer, and the only security they will ever know.

Welfare is not the way out of the social fallout of childhood poverty and abuse. Education is the way. Economic changes to provide more jobs and distribute wealth more evenly is the way. Dissolving cultural and gender differences to create greater equality is the way. Ending family violence and child abuse is the way.

But until we can see this and act on it, we will have to accept that something needs to be done. Until we can make changes in our homes and the way we parent children, until we can make changes in our society and the way we distribute and share wealth, until we change our economic priorities and the way the country is run, until we can create positive change through education and prepare people for life and living rather than as a commodity which dehumanises them as a cog in the economic wheel, we will have to accept that those we do not help over the obstacles along the way, will need a handout. Just as importantly, we also need to see that it is not only ignorant, but insane, to punish them for this.

Until we collectively embrace the hard questions that could improve our lives if we stretched our minds and gave some thought to answering them truthfully, we will continue to create division bred through ignorance on every level in our society. Do we really want or need that? Do we want a Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson in our midst – potentially in the form of a Colin Craig – who argues the same point Craig does about contraception:

How did we get to a point where women think we should pay for them to have sex? …They want to force us to buy them birth control… They want to have sex out of wedlock…and they want us to pay for that.

And who then goes further to create division between the sexes not only by saying that women should not be given free contraception, but that “One of the greatest mistakes that America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote… These women are voting in the wrong people… This is how evil is coming in; it is coming through the woman… This is how homosexuality came to the forefront… Wherever women are taking over, evil reigns.”

From my observations and experience it is the raping of our children (by both men and women) within the so-called safety of our homes – and I cannot call it sexual abuse or even incest because of the horror of it and the serious impact it has on the unlucky children who are victims of such perverse behaviour not even seen in animals – that is one of the most damaging seditious acts committed against children that undermines the whole fabric of our so-called civilized society.

And it is the main reason why women become promiscuous. They are either (often unconsciously) acting out what was done to them as children, or they are seeking revenge by using men in a similar way to the way they were used: as objects for sexual gratification. In this way they are seeking either to have power over the helpless situation they experienced as an innocent child, or seek to have power over the men who were predators of their innocence and sexual immaturity.

This is what I learned when I began to ask those hard questions.

Collectively we need to ask, “Why does a person behave this way?” If we listened to their answers without prejudice or prejudgment, a different picture would emerge that would shame us for judging, for welfare bashing, and for shaming and humiliating people who have been brought up in situations from which there was no escape and no help forthcoming. Our whole society has a lot to answer for by not asking such vital questions, facing with courage the truth that emerges, and then acting in humane and compassionate ways to resolve every social problem we currently face.

This is not the responsibility of the government. The responsibility lies within each and every one of us. What we need are strong community leaders to unite us and show us a way forward with compassion and caring. Let’s end the welfare bashing and instead uncover the secrets of abuse that most try to hide so that we can forge a new path of peace and happiness into our future for generations to come.


Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson video
Johnson, M. (1996). Dumb Show.  Dunedin, New Zealand: Longacre Press (pp. 23-25)

This article was originally published in Scoop.


Promiscuity: Loose Morals or Searching for Love?
New Zealand’s Social Crisis
How Can We End Family Violence?

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