parents

This is not about 'context' or parental judgement. This is what child abuse looks like.

“It took a shamefully long time for us to finally start recognising domestic violence as a violent crime. So it has always baffled me that we’re lagging so far behind when it comes to applying the same philosophy to children.”

A man is sitting in a busy cafe having breakfast with his wife and two of his children. One is a toddler. The other an infant. The kids are getting bored. They always do in cafes. The baby starts fidgeting and then crying. The little boy stands up on his chair and reaches for the salt and pepper shakers.

Suddenly, the children’s father reaches across the table and pours a jug of water over the head of the crying baby. Soon after, he rises from his chair, walks quickly to the other side of the table where he swings back his arm before hitting his 3yo son in the head so hard that the child loses his balance, crashes against the table and slumps down heavily on his chair before bursting into tears.

As the baby continues to cry, the man then grabs him from his highchair, wrenching him out roughly by his arms. It is extremely distressing to watch on the CCTV footage of the incident since made available.

You can see it all for yourself here:

This all happened in public, in front of dozens of on-lookers and cafe staff. One witness called police. Another said the action was “so severe” that diners were shocked after witnessing it.

Police confirmed they were called to the cafe around 8:30am after reports of a male assaulting a two or three-year-old child.

Read more: We need to end violence against children. Here’s how you can help.

The man who hit and humiliated his tiny children is Jason Deller, an independent candidate running for the Queensland seat of Kawana. Today he told the Courier Mail that the incident has been taken “out of context” and that he “would be surprised if it didn’t”  happen in other households.

QLD politician slaps child in cafe
Jason Deller. Source: Linked In.
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“The matter is a delicate issue, but there is nothing more to follow up – that’s the end of it,” he said.

“Things get reported differently to the way they actually happened. This has completely been taken out of context.”

“I don’t condone it, but don’t want to get into specifics,” Mr Deller said. “My wife’s very upset and said that if this is what being in public life’s like, then perhaps I shouldn’t pursue it.”

No further action has been taken. “It will be a note on my record, that’s all,” he said.

From Jason Deller’s personal bio. Screenshot via Channel 9.

Mr Deller, you are absolutely right. This does happen in other households. Far too many of them. And it is called child abuse.

Read more: “An apology letter to my second child.”

There is no context in which hitting a child in that way is OK or even legal. This is not a matter of parental judgement or context. This is a crime. The fact that Mr Deller no doubt loves his son and may well be an otherwise good father doesn’t change that.

Nor does the fact that the word ‘crime’ in this context will make many people angry because it forces them to confront their own behaviour and look at it in a way that makes them acutely uncomfortable.

The moment Jason Deller poured water on his child. Screenshot via Channel 9.

I have been listening in shock this morning to commentators and TV and radio hosts qualifying their horror at Jason Deller’s actions with disclaimers like this:

“We shouldn’t judge other parents but…”

“You never want to weigh in on what goes on in someone else’s home…..”

“It’s always tricky to comment about how someone else chooses to parent their child….”

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“This is a very touchy subject for many parents….”

“Look, I’m the last one to say how someone should parent however…”

I have this to say to every one of those statements and anyone who makes them: bullshit.

I have been in that cafe a hundred times since having kids. Not the cafe itself but the situation. In cafes, supermarkets, shops, parks……I can’t recall any public or private place where, on some occasion, my children haven’t behaved in ways I’ve found infuriating.

My responses have depended on my mood and on the behaviour. I have snapped at them. Hissed at them to stop it OR ELSE. Shouted. Made idle threats. Imposed punishments and consequences. Removed them from the situation. Spoken in ways I’m not proud of.

“Hitting a child like that is a crime. And the sooner we start calling it that, the sooner public attitudes will start to shift and the safer children will be.” Screenshot via Channel 9.

But you don’t ever, ever take a swing at your child in the way Jason Teller did. You don’t. You can’t. You mustn’t. Not ever.

That is not a touchy subject or a grey area or a case of parental judgement or context.

Read more: She was abused, then locked out of sight until the bruises went away.

Hitting a child like that is a crime. And the sooner we start calling it that, the sooner public attitudes will start to shift and the safer children will be.

Because right now, so many innocent, vulnerable children are not safe at all. Hundreds of thousands of babies, infants, toddlers and kids are hit and abused by their parents or carers behind closed doors every single day. And we don’t know about most of them because these children can’t tell anyone. They can’t alert authorities. They can’t call a helpline. Some of them are too young to even speak let alone leave, as an adult could.

“That is not a touchy subject or a grey area or a case of parental judgement or context.”  Screenshot via Channel 9.

They are utterly, devastatingly powerless.  And unless as a society we speak up, re-educate parents and make adults responsible for their actions, we cannot change the perception that children are the property of their carers who are perfectly entitled to discipline them in whatever way they choose. That somehow, hitting a child across the head is a parental right. That ‘teaching them a lesson’ by taking a swing is some noble act of imparting wisdom “for their own good”.

It wasn’t long ago that people used that same justification for men hitting their wives. It was a private matter. It needed to be taken in context. The law shouldn’t get involved in things that happened within loving families behind closed doors. She deserved it. I love her so how can it be abuse?

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It took a shamefully long time for us to finally start calling a man hitting his wife exactly what it is: a violent crime.

So it has always baffled me that we’re lagging so far behind when it comes to applying the same philosophy  to children.

“It took a shamefully long time for us to finally start calling a man hitting his wife exactly what it is: a violent crime. So it has always baffled me that we’re lagging so far behind when it comes to applying the same philosophy to children.” Screenshot via Channel 9.

Part of being a parent – no, part of being a law-abiding adult –  is learning to control your impulses. Context be damned. Provocation be damned.

When someone cuts you off in traffic, you still aren’t legally allowed to get out of your car at the traffic lights and hit them in the head.

When someone is rude to you in a shop, you aren’t legally allowed to hit them in the head.

When your partner cheats on you, you aren’t legally allowed to hit them in the head.

When someone steals your car spot at Westfield, you aren’t legally allowed to hit them in the head.

When your neighbour lets her dog take a dump on your lawn, you aren’t legally allowed to hit her in the head.

All of these acts are called assault. The fact that the person you hit was behaving badly at the time doesn’t excuse the perpetrator.

“Part of being a parent – no, part of being a law-abiding adult – is learning to control your impulses. Context be damned. Provocation be damned.” Screenshot via Channel 9.

So how come when your child is pissing you off because they’re bored in a cafe,  a man like Jason Deller thinks it’s ok to take a swing and hit a 3yo in the head? And how can anyone possibly spout rubbish about ‘grey area’ and ‘not judging parents’ in his defence?

It’s crucial that we not only judge but charge people who behave in this way. It’s the only way to shift public thinking and progress it forward in the way we have done with drink driving and domestic violence. Both these crimes used to be defended on the same grounds of ‘privacy’ and  ‘personal choice’.

You know who doesn’t have a choice here? Children who are being clobbered by their parents. And let’s hope voters in Jason Teller’s seat of Kawana remember that tomorrow when they vote in the Queensland state election.

As a result of this incident, Jason Deller has now withdraw as a candidate in the seat of Kawana, just one day before the Queensland election.