Re: Child abuse (Was Re: Is the death penalty Extropian?)

Zenarchy (
Mon, 30 Nov 1998 17:11:01 -0800

From: Charlie Stross <>
>That's not to say that child abuse _isn't_ a very serious issue, where and
>when it occurs, but overreacting this way is just opening the door on a
>rather nasty kind of police state.

What more likely candidates to support and join the ranks of a rather nasty kind of police state than formerly abused kids? As a consequence, prevention of child abuse equates with prevention of a police state. Children who grow up in healthy, happy homes don't become the purveyors or builders of police states (or so it seems to me).

>> How to deal with it?
>> a) Compulsory psychological screening and parenting tests for
>> everyone who wants children
>(Fine, so people who want children are screened by some sort of agency
>that gives bureaucrats power over their personal life. "Want to have
>children? Great! If you can't satisfy me that you're sane, sensible, and
>will bring them up appropriately, you can't have a license. By the way,
>do you intend to bring them up as good, honest, god- fearing Christians?")

Departments of Motor Vehicles issue licenses based on testing. They don't ask about religiosity. A Department of Family Planning could offer certificates of training for prospective parents as a way for them to demonstrate that they truly have the best interests of their children at heart.

>> b) No children if you can't support them financially
>(Okay, so we can easily stop social undesirables having children. "Officer,
>I have reason to believe that so-and-so are libertarian subversives. Worse,
>they're going to breed. Can you stop them please?" "Why sure, lemme just
>drop this lil'ole water pipe in their back yard then go knock on the
>door. Oh dear, they seem to have some dope parephenalia! I guess we'll
>just have to confiscate their home, so then they won't have the assets to
>support their children. How's that for a solution?")

Not much of a solution, actually. Probably no worse tragedy than robbing children of the chance to have a home because their parents mangled their minds with fundamentalist torture disguised as discipline.

If psycho parents tortured their kids in complete secrecy, it would not become a social problem. The trouble begins when the community has to deal with the psychological wrecks that dysfunctional parents produce. So I say, leave families alone until an actual crime, violent or otherwise, comes to light. Then either punish unfit parents along with their miscreant offspring, or put into the public record that this family suffers from a condition demonstrably damaging to the community.

>> c) A special police service for abuse victims: if you're being abused
>> at home (or any other place for that matter), the police will install a
>> domestic surveillance system
>Great. So not only am I not secure in my property and person from being
>raided by the cops, but they can install cameras in my bedroom because they
>suspect I'm abusing children? On the say-so of a kid whose word would not,
>on its own, be taken as evidence that can stand up in court? Paging Winston
>Smith ..!

Okay, I gotta admit den does go too far on this one.

>> d) Tough punishments for abusers (jail time and corporal punishment).
>I'd rather see the problem prevented before it occurs, or a fix applied
>such that it is less likely to recur. Can you show me any studies
>suggesting that flogging and hard labour reduce recidivism in paedophiles
>more efficiently than psychiatric counseling and probation?

Or how about extending the Megan Law (which requires offenders to register and notify neighbors) to include all violent offenders and their parents. This would provide greater incentive for parents to care for their own kids to the very best of their ability -- or to hand the children over for adoption. It would also help to prevent some potentially abusive parents from becoming parents in the first place.

I don't know, but I get the feeling you can identify potential child abusers by how they react to discussions about how to punish child abusers. I mean if someone objects to severe punishments for treason, one might wonder about their patriotism. (Not that I give a greasy turd about patriotism. I agree with Mittarand: "Nationalism means war.") Anyway, as Charlie has indicated, the best method of solving the problem involves curing the illness, not punishing it.

>> f) Of course, the abusers (should they ever get out of jail) would
>> be slapped with a perpetual restraining order, to be enforced by
>> an electronic ankle bracelet (or something more sophisticated).
>Here in the UK, the gummint passed a law a year or so ago to the effect
>that all sex offenders must be registered with the local cop shop whenever
>they move house. This law was passed to protect children from predators.
>Unfortunately, it was a bit broadly worded. Until about two years ago, it
>was illegal for men aged under 21 to have sex together, even in private;
>a large proportion of the registered sex offenders are basically young
>gay males.

That probably has to do more with society's repressive attitude concerning male sexuality than with any genuine concern about child abuse. Penalties for having sex with a minor exceed those for pistol whipping a minor. Guess why.

>The vigilante mobs who try to run 'paedophiles' out of their homes under
>threat of lynch law don't seem to be able to tell the difference, though.

Oh, they can tell the difference all right. They just get very upset about the idea that someone might actually like children. (Pedophilia means loving kids after all.) Incidentally, vigilante mobs have a tough time targeting *real* child abusers in the US because it occurs in secret. The show trials of child abuse usually occur during divorce proceedings when attorneys advise clients to lie about their spouses. Janet Reno made her reputation by getting huge settlements and child custody for her clients by using the ploy of falsely accusing them of child abuse.

>All I see here is a call for postively fascist levels of policing, without
>a coherent goal in mind, articulated as a knee-jerk response to a problem
>of questionable severity, and likely to result in the most astonishing
>abuse of fundamental human rights.
>Is it a witch hunt? Well, yes. Replace the terms "abuser" and "paedophile"
>with "communist" if you don't believe me ...

Hmmm... maybe a "communist" witch hunt could have prevented Stalin from murdering 30 or 40 million of his own people. But maybe not. It only amounts to speculation. Anyway, I think Extropy Institute could further its cause by promoting networks of excellent, competent, healthy parents. It embarrasses me that I've ranted so much about child abusers instead of congratulating and honoring the many beautiful and accomplished fathers and mothers who sacrifice for their kids and succeed in transmitting definitely extropic direction to their lives. Think I'll go take a shower. All this discussion about child abuse has made me feel dirty. --JRM