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Childism, Misopedia and Misogyny: Industrialized Country Women who when Girls were under Siege

May 01, 2012 at 2:18 PM

In the early 90s Linda and I began searching for explanations that would help us comprehend that adults—parents, grandparents, other family members, guardians, and others such as pedophiles, human traffickers and pornographers, for example—took/take pleasure in organizing the torture of children—their children as well as other children. Answering our own question we decided that such perpetrators had to hate children. How else could they inflict such cruelty? The ancient Greeks obviously knew the hatred of children existed as they had the word misopedia, meaning the hatred of children.

Hatred of children by such perpetrators was one part of the answer. Because as we listened to mainly women speaking of how as girls they tried to tell outsiders that they were being harmed—as much as a preschooler or a young school aged child can have language to describe torture--they were told they were lying, they were disbelieved, they were labelled with mental problems and/or their acting out behaviours were either ignored or misunderstood. It also became evident that their parents—the torturers—as adults their voices were valued over that of the women’s voices when they were girls. Hence, Linda and I began to understand the existence of the socio-cultural discrimination against children—childism is the word we came up with. Others have too.[1] This devaluation—this childism—placed the women as girls in ‘lives’ of on-going torture victimization. Besides being tortured the women speak of being “rented out for torture”, of being trafficked by mothers and fathers to pornographers who manufactured pedophilic ‘pornography’ and even ‘snuff’ images.

Little girls grow up to become women. Women are confronted with misogyny. The torture suffered when girls, even when infants, that was sexualized and recorded into pedophilic imagery—pornographic violence—becomes transformed, sexualized and normalized into sadomasochism. From the women Linda and I have come to know, they report experiencing on-going victimization until they were able to escape and maintain their safety. They had episodes of family/group torture ordeals, as well as being trafficked and exploited, including financially. For instance, a woman’s salary was expropriated and her existence, including food, depended on what the family rationed out to her.  When they tried to tell as adults, they met attitudes of misogyny, disbelief, were labelled mentally ill and/or drugged. When seeking help some women report being sexually assaulted by professionals who took advantage of their extreme vulnerability. For some women this was a repeat of the assaults they had endured as children that had been inflicted by professionals.  

Prevention begins by recognizing as children the women were not lying and are not lying as adults. Prevention today begins by moving childism aside and acknowledging that some children suffer child torture that is inflicted in the home, that can involve organized family/group crimes and that can continue for years and years.

They were not and are not Lying

In this Blog, I will provide insights into the universality of the human cruelty of torturers. I will do this by referring to a recently released Amnesty International (AI) report entitled ‘I wanted to Die’.[2] Every day women said they too wanted to die—as little girls, as teenagers and as women so victimized. They wanted to die to stop the severity of the pain and suffering torturers inflicted onto them. 

The AI report shares the voiced ordeals of 18 men and one woman who were victims of torture inflicted by State torturers in Syria. Thirty-one methods of torture inflicted are listed in the report and accepted to have occurred. That is, these 19 persons were not disbelieved or not labelled crazy. In fact, their victimization is validated. Just imagine if you will how healing this validation must be. Being heard and believed is also considered to promote some sense of social justice. For the population of the women referred to in this report being heard, being believed, being validated and having access to social justice is not their experience. Therefore, I replicate the list of torture methods AI identified and compare how these same acts of torture were described as having been suffered by women from the industrialized countries of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and other Western countries, Australia and New Zealand. It matters not which country the women are from, their ‘stories’ are consistently similar and their descriptions similar to those identified by the Syrian victims. The point is torturers appear to have similar brutality torture tactics--we are a species that is capable of torturing whether in the home or in a prison cell—the women when they were children were not lying—society was not listening—childism was in the way.

Torturers and their Torture Tactics



Beatings on all parts of the body, punching, slapping and/or kicking  with fists, feet, sticks, truncheons, braided cables, whips or butts of weapons

√ Add sticks and tree branches and boards such as 2x4s or hammers

Hair being pulled or pulled out

 Add dragged by the hair

Cigarettes stubbed out on the body


Flesh gouged by pincers

Punctured with knives, needles, cut with razor blades

Falaqa, beating on the soles of the feet


Hung by wrists, occasionally by the feet, often for long periods, usually beaten; sometimes in a stress position where their toes kept on the floor


Crucifixion – another form of suspension torture where the victim is tied to a wall or frame with the arms outstretched in a crucifixion position

 Women speak of this form of suspension, sometimes placed upside down, or being “spread-eagled” which is sexualized objectification language

Stress positions, such as being forced to stand for hours on tip-toe

 Stress positions such as being forced not only to stand but also forced to sit in hot sun for example  

Exposure to excessive cold, such as being kept outside often only in underwear overnight or for other long periods

Add naked

Being subjected to sexual violence

 Constantly, inflicted by individuals and groups

Being forced to watch the rape of another detainee

 Of other children, for example

Being subjected to sights and sounds of torture being inflicted on others, including of friends and family members, and being exposed to killings of torture victims

 Excludes family members as they were/are the torturers but other victimized children were considered friends; some women report clear memories of killings of a trafficked child for example

Electric shocks to parts of the body via an electric prod or other hand instrument

 Including inside their mouth, vagina and anus

Electric shocks via electric charge applied to a wet floor

√ Not on wet floor but their body was wet

Electric chair: a metal chair with a kind of metal helmet into which the victim is strapped and then an electric current is switched on

√ Strapped to beds or a torture rack and a metal band placed around their head and electric current applied

Threatening the victim with rape


Threatening the victim that their relatives will be detained, raped or otherwise tortured

 Threatened that outsiders who help them will be harmed and some, for example, were harmed by malicious professional complaints and/or the spreading of discreding rumours

Threat of execution

√ Repeatedly told they would be killed if ever they tried to tell

Denigrating the victim’s religious beliefs


√ Denigration was directed at them as female persons, they were “nothing”; they were ‘itized’—forced to think of them Self as “its”, as objects and non-human; as well, their worldview was intentionally distorted to increase perpetrators domination over the child

Degrading using obscene language or insults or forcing them to undress in front of others


Being stabbed or cut


Having unpleasant matter, such as salt, forced into the mouth

 They were forced to consume bodily fluids of the perpetrators

Being denied adequate medical care


Deprived of fresh air, toilet or washing facilities


Being detained in excessively cramped and overcrowded conditions

 Caged, placed in cramped containers, sometimes trafficked with other children

Being held in prolonged solitary confinement

 Not for months but were kept locked in rooms, closets, cupboards, cages and boxes for hours and sometimes days over the years of their childhood

Sharing the cell with a detainee dying – and who then dies – due to denial of medical treatment

X Not applicable here

Sharing a solitary confinement cell with what seemed to be a human corpse.

 On a farm under the darkness of night placed in a hole in the ground and objects thrown into the hole and told this was a corpse or pieces of a corpse

There were three specialized forms of physical tortures not included as these did not specifically apply however, these could be replaced with a discussion on forms of reproductive tortures that the women endured as girls/women. There are other differences such as the relationship of the torturer to the victim, the age when victimized, and the duration of time the torture was endured. Without further discussion but acknowledging and respecting these significant differences one constant human right remains and that is “no one should be subjected to torture”.[3] This is a human right the world is trying to achieve between countries and its citizens, between citizens and citizens—in the public as well as the private spaces.


I have done this torture tactics chart comparison,

  1. So it will be impossible to deny that there are those among us who have the capacities to torture and their patterns of torture have universal similarities,
  2. To challenge socio-cultural childism that has and continues to deny that some children have and will and are enduring torture inflicted in the home and other private spaces, and
  3. To expose that torture is not a form of violence that happens only somewhere in conflict ridden countries but that it also takes shape in all countries; however, in industrialized countries wherever there is an absence of non-state torture laws this continues to create socio-cultural denial that such acts of torture exist and these torturers enjoy impunity for the many forms of torture they inflict .  

It is time to listen and to believe. It is time to acknowledge that torture happens in the so-called private sphere of industrialized countries and if not criminalized it must be.

Jeanne Sarson 



[1] Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth. (2012). Childism Confronting Prejudice Against Children. Yale University Press.

[2] Amnesty International. (2012, March). ‘I wanted to die’ Syria’s torture survivors speak out. London, UK.

[3] United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. (1948). Article 5.

Jeanne Sarson

As a writer my focus is on sharing the supportive and research work that began for Linda and I in August of 1993 when a woman ‘introduced’ us to the reality of the torture victimization she suffered, that was inflicted by private individuals or ‘non-state actors’. Linda and I hold a relational feminist and human rights perspective so my writings reflect this position, as does the editing that Linda and I do. Being entrusted with person’s victimization knowledge and healing work our goal also includes sharing their voices in our articles. Without this participatory partnership we could not break the global patriarchal socio-cultural resistance that has silenced the existence of the many forms of non-state torture (NST) victimization that can be/are inflicted from birth. Writings share our wisdom and focuses on gaining the human rights of victimized persons not to be subjected to torture, and to assert the necessity that NST must be specifically and distinctly criminalized in all nations on this planet.


Posted by Nadine Lumley on

Understanding the cycle of abuse
Humiliations, spankings and beatings, slaps in the face, betrayal, sexual exploitation, derision, neglect, etc. are all forms of mistreatment, because they injure the integrity and dignity of a child, even if their consequences are not visible right away.
However, as adults, most abused children will suffer…, ***AND let others suffer, from these injuries.
By Alice Miller, Ph.D.:
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