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Jul 5, 2011

I don't watch TV, except when I'm at someone else's house or the laundromat. Lately, every single time I've gone to the laundromat, the Casie Anthony trial has been on, and the place has been abuzz with discussion of the case. I think any single thing that can get the laundromat crowd talking is probably worth blogging about. I remember when the case broke, and I've been follwoing the trial minimally. I most vividly remember people saying "I can't imagine how someone could be partying when their little girl is missing". Every time I hear someone say "I can't imagine how someone could ___", and that blank is either an act of child abuse or a failure to respond to an act of child abuse, I want to say "great, I'm glad you can't imagine it! That means you probably bonded with your children, or can conceive of bonding with children you may have some day". Bonding is the psychological term for that visceral love and connection that happens between a new parent and the shrieking, pooping, uber-fragile and needy creature they have just brought into the world. If bonding didn't happen, parents would dispense themselves of newborn babies after the burdens of noise, poop, etc., became apparent. Bonding doesn't always happen, for a variety of reasons. It's pretty easy to predict when a parent is going to have trouble bonding with a child, and it's pretty easy to spot when they actually are having trouble. And there are very good programs that parents can enroll in where the obstacles to bonding are removed from the parent's life, they are taught about child care, and usually, like magic, the magic that is bonding happens. These programs, which usually are conducted in a parent's home by a nurse or other professional, have the ingenious name of home-visiting programs, and they are the cornerstone of child abuse prevention. So, does child abuse prevention work? The answer is yes, it does, beyond all shadow of a doubt. We've known this for the last 35 years or so. So why is there still child abuse? Well, there are several answers to that question, but the biggest one is that states decided that preventing child abuse simply wasn't worth the money, and the federal government thought that was OK.

I studied the history of child abuse, its prevention and the laws surrounding it when I was in college, between biochemistry courses. The most salient lesson I learned is that all the abuse and misery I endured as a child was preventable. College was my first chance to be spatially and emotionally separated from my parents, and started dealing with my abuse. Learning that it could have been prevented was like being re-victimized. It was easy for me to believe that people simply didn't care about abused children. I've been volunteering for an organization that works to prevent child abuse for almost eleven years now. I realize that my first instinct wasn't exactly right- people can care, under particular circumstances, about abused children. We obsess with sordid details- I think it makes parents feel better about their parenting ability. We hate sexual abuse, and are willing to push the limits of our constitution in order to prosecute and prevent it. And we love taking vengeance on horrific abusers, which is why the death penalty was put on the table in the Casie Anthony case. But we don't want to educate ourselves about child abuse, we don't want to see past the vengeance, and we don't want to make preventing the pain a priority or a policy. The last two years, I've submitted testimony to the New York State Joint Committee on Human Services about why child abuse is bad, why preventing it is good, and why, no matter how bad the economy is, you don't fix it by cutting money that prevents child abuse. One of the things I try to do is to remind the politicians that, with the stroke of a pen, they can sentence thousands of children to either be abused or not to be. Of those who get abused, some will die from their injuries. Some will die from suicide, murder and accidents related to high-risk behavior as teenagers. Some will die from cancer, diabetes and heart disease as the get older, and some will be murdered by their intimate partners. Child abuse survivors are more likely to die, at any age, from the leading causes of death for people in their age bracket. This means that child abuse survivors are likely to live pain-filled lives from cradle to grave, and their march from one to the other is likely to be short.

Prosecuting the person who abused you doesn't fix this. Especially if the victim is dead. I always have trouble understanding what justice is supposed to mean in the context of child abuse. As I talked about in my last share, I think "damage control", arresting someone who is likely to abuse more children, is very important. I don't think Casie Anthony is likely to do this. Does part of me want to see her hurt more, if she really is the one who killed her daughter? Yes, but I also know it won't change anything. And I believe vengeance is a muscle that is best left to atrophy, in myself and our society. I believe prevention is where we need to invest our money and emotional energy, as boring as it may be. And I do believe that it should be easier to arrest child sex offenders, who are likely to abuse again and again (refer to my last share for all you could ever want to learn about that topic). And if you agree with my on that, signing the petition below gives you a chance to make New York State a little better for sexual abuse survivors.
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Posted: Tuesday July 5, 2011, 4:53 pm
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Pamylle G. (463)
Wednesday August 31, 2011, 2:25 pm
Excellent essay - bravo ! Have signed your petition gladly.

Ashley Piechocki (55)
Tuesday November 1, 2011, 7:31 am
I signed your petition too. I have a strong stand against any form of abuse as well.


melanie blow
female, age 37, open relationship
Rochester, NY, USA
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