Tuesday 27 April 2010

In Memoriam: Alice Miller (1923-2010)

Last week Alice Miller died. The Swiss psychologist, who achieved international fame with her 1979 book The Drama of the Gifted Child and subsequent publications, devoted her professional life to research on child abuse and its consequences. Alice Miller's books, translated into 30 languages, show how child abuse and violent behaviour in adult life - such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, even terrorism and political dictatorship - are interrelated.

Until early last year, Alice Miller kept her extremely informative website up to date. Please have a look at the site; it includes rich materials in English and French. I feel that anyone working on such issues as violence against women or conflict resolution can benefit from Alice Miller's work. Violence, including war and forms of oppression, are not "only" political and social phenomena. Violence is instilled by mothers, fathers, close relatives, teachers, in many different ways, and is transmitted to subsequent generations. Violence is right inside us and needs to be recognised and addressed so that we become more effective at ending violence.

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits all violence against children. Yet, although most States in the world have ratified the Convention, relatively little seems to be done to ensure a safe and secure upbringing to children. "Corporal punishment" is still common in countless families and schools across the world. Sexual abuse in families and at schools is notoriously underreported - note how many years, often decades, it has taken for the survivors of abuse in church-run institutions to "come out" with their stories in recent months. Alice Miller was among the first to break the silence on child abuse.

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