A mantra I learnt as a young doctor from older colleagues was, "There but for the grace of God go I". It was a reminder when faced with something shocking or upsetting to be aware of my own shortcomings and try to place myself in the shoes of the people who came my way and not condemn them. From such a position we hope to be able to consider carefully the injured children who come to our attention and offer them and their families the best service we can, whatever that might entail.
Ideally this 'Christian' approach should offer the best results.
However, when it is widely adopted beyond the sphere of the medical profession, it does not.
When social workers, court staff, lawyers, teachers, clergy, and various other volunteers don the self-satisfying cloak of non-judgmentalism those being mentored to, the abusers, actually start believing that their actions are justifiable, understandable and even admissible. They start believing in themselves as the victims of circumstances beyond their control - for instance their own upbringing, or in the case of Maori, their cultural oppression.
While it is true that these factors have bearing on what transpires - acts of domestic violence - they are not excuses.
But the perpetrators are probably quite shocked when they go too far and end up convicted and imprisoned. Quite a rare response from society in the scheme of things.
What is lacking is the broad stigmatisation of child abuse. It is strange that cigarette smoking has been transformed into a detestable, filthy habit by the Health Ministry, other paid zealots and politicians, yet influential people like Ian Hassall are still making excuses and preaching tolerance for child abusers.