Pro-family groups are united in believing that parents should decide what is best for their children.This sentence supports the rights of parents to deny their daughters a HPV vaccine that reduces the chances that those daughters will get cervical cancer. On the surface this idea of the sanctity of parental control may sound good, but get behind the facade and you'll see that this statement also implies something very disturbing.
What happens in the family stays in the family.
The problem with an absolute belief in the statement quoted above is it puts the rights of the leader of the family unit (the father of course) above the rights and safety of the children.
For far too long, people looked away from child abuse and domestic violence because it was seen as a family matter rather than a child safety matter. While families are important, there is a real danger of buying the myth that having a mother and a father living together while legally married makes all children safe as long as they are protected from outside threats.
Like most areas of debate, the best solution is one that balances many concerns and ignores none of them.
Shortly before the Washington Post article came out, I saw a press release related to Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) which documents the rejection of this syndrome as valid science and exposes it as a myth created to make children's testimony of parental abuse sound like nothing more substantial than brainwashing.
This so-called syndrome fits neatly into the idea that the leader of the family should have full control of the members of the family and any resistance to that control should be seen as abhorrent behavior.
There are dangers when law enforcement personnel interview young children. This is why many in law enforcement have taken training in how to get testimony without leading the child into giving certain answers or harassing the child because of the interviewing officer's disbelief in the merits of the case.
Back to the HPV vaccine, it's a little too easy for many fathers who aren't abusive to dismiss the dangers girls and women face, sometimes on a daily basis, that pose no substantial risk to men. And because they underestimate the dangers, they may overestimate their ability to protect their daughters.
This can be a deadly mistake.
The same is true of family court officials who assume that PAS exists and then give children into the custody of the parent who has been accused of committing child abuse.
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