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

den Otter (
Wed, 2 Dec 1998 22:52:05 +0100

> From: Charlie Stross <>

> Er, those figures come from "American Guardian -- America's Frontline
> Defense Against Perversion".
> Bear in mind that these people are religious fundamentalists.

Yes, indeed they are. In fact, a strict religious upbringing could be seen as a severe form of mental abuse itself (now *that* would pump up the statistics, wouldn't it?), and it is "common wisdom" that physical and sexual abuse are rather common in "devoutly religious" families/communities. Nontheless, their figures *do* match those provided by "government organizations", which, unreliable as they may be, are the only significant source of data on this topic, or so it seems. In any case, anyone who bothers to do a survey on child abuse is almost by definition somehow involved in the issue, and will thus have a (hidden?) agenda.

> They do not provide any substantiating evidence, references to studies,
> or discussion of their survey methods.

True, so here's one that does have some references, and furthermore breaks the data down according to type of abuse. The info is from a "private non-profit agency called the "YES ICAN." YES is the affirmation of every individual's capacity to change and to make a difference. ICAN is the acronym for International Child Abuse Network. As is stated in our mission: "Working worldwide to break the cycle of child abuse," the services we will provide through this agency will be for anyone who needs assistance or information concerning child abuse. We believe that child abuse could cease to exist if everyone had the capability to receive accurate information about abuse and then had the capacity to receive assistance and support to change." See also: and


"In 1996, an estimated 3,126,000 children were reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies as alleged victims of child maltreatment. Child abuse reports have maintained a steady growth for the past ten years, with the total number of reports nationwide increasing 45% since 1987 (Nation Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse (NCPCA) 1996 Annual Fifty State Survey).

 Neglect represents the most common type of reported and substantiated form of maltreatment. In 1996, 25 states provided the following breakdown for reported cases: 62% involved neglect, 25% physical abuse, 7% sexual abuse, 3% emotional maltreatment and 4% other. For substantiated cases, 31 states gave the following breakdowns: 60% neglect, 23% physical, 9% sexual, 4% emotional maltreatment and 5% other (NCPCA's 1996 Annual Fifty State Survey).

In 1995, an estimated 1,215 child abuse and neglect related fatalities were confirmed by CPS agencies. Since 1985, the rate of child abuse fatalities has increased by 39%. Based on these numbers, more than three children die each day as a result of child abuse or neglect (NCPCA's 1996 Annual Fifty State Survey).

According to information from at least 18 states that were able to report the type of maltreatment which caused the child's death for at least one of the past three years. Approximately 54% of the deaths were due to physical abuse while 43% resulted from neglect. Young children remain at high risk for loss of life. Based on data from all three years, this study found 82% of these children were under the age of five while an alarming 42% were under the age of one at the time of their death (NCPCA's 1996 Annual Fifty State Survey).

The U.S. Advisory Board reported that near fatal abuse and neglect each year leave "18,000 permanently disabled children, tens of thousands of victims overwhelmed by lifelong psychological trauma, thousands of traumatized siblings and family members, and thousands of near-death survivors who, as adults, continue to bear the physical and psychological scars. Some may turn to crime or domestic violence or become abusers themselves (U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1995 report, A National's Shame.)"

The Third National Incidence Study (NIS-3) of child maltreatment released by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) in the fall of 1996."

> I'd say that a campaigning anti-child-abuse organisation has a vested
> interest in making their cause as alarming as possible, in order to
> reap the maximum publicity and attention. But they can't point to any
> specific symptoms of a disease sweeping the nation that's distinct
> from the everyday background noise of a violent culture.

That "background noise of a violent culture" is bad enough to justify some firm legal action. Child abuse, spouse abuse, street violence etc should never become "accepted" cultural phenomena.

For example,
> "Between 1986 and 1995, child maltreatment reports have increased 49%
> nationwide. (Current Trends in Child Abuse Reporting and Fatalities:
> The results of the 1995 Annual Fifty State Survey, National Center on
> Child Abuse Prevention Research.)" There's no comment on whether
> this is due to an underlying upward trend in child abuse, or due to
> increased reporting of child abuse, or drawing the definition so widely
> that formerly tolerated behaviour (parents spanking badly-behaved kids)
> is now classified as abuse.

See above for at least *some* answers.

> > > Right now, here in the UK, we're in the middle of a witch hunt directed
> > > against paedophiles. It's not very pretty, and statements like the one above
> > > are fairly typical of the alarmism used to whip up hysteria about the issue.
> >
> > Pedophiles are a relatively minor issue compared to non-sexual forms
> > of abuse (physical and psychological). Of course hysteria is bad, but
> > doing too little about the problem is even worse (more victims). Ideally,
> > the new measures would be implemented discretely, not with the usual
> > political pomp. This should avoid or at least reduce public hysteria.
> But the point is, the figures you're quoting are being used by
> organisations with a special interest to whip up the hysteria.

So wat, if they even *slightly* approximate the truth there is plenty of reason to take action. Every case counts. Frankly, I think the figures are still underestimating the real problem, but that's just a hunch, of course.

> a victim of it, and don't seem to have realised it.

I don't think so. The trick is to find the middle path, to be sceptical about what the state/media etc. say, but not to dismiss things outright because the messenger is known to have lied before. I'm not buying into the anti-drug propaganda for example, or any of the other excuses for keeping victimless crime illegal. I think I can recognize bullshit fairly well when I see it. Child abuse, murder and other "real" crimes are no bullshit however. In a fair society, they must be dealt with firmly, otherwise *everyone* will suffer (directly by being a victim or indirectly by paying for the costs of others becoming victims, for example).

> Unfortunately we don't have that. Here in the UK the government is putting
> up a network of half a million surveillance cameras. They're actively
> pursuing development of automated face-recognition technologies so they
> can identify suspects automatically. (Don't believe me? Go read some of
> the papers on Yet when a couple of journalists
> planted a webcam outside a minister's official residence last year they
> rapidly received a visit from the Special Branch. No such system of
> checks and balances exists, and although I will concede your point if it
> did, we don't seem likely to get one -- it's not in our ruler's interests
> and not enough people are alarmed about it to make it a hot political issue.

I know, the system I describe is purely theoretical. The only possible way it could be implemented (and the Singularity clock is ticking) would be if some transhumanists (preferably me, of course ;-) got rich Bill Gates style and "adopted" one or more countries. Of course, the odds of that happening aren't too great...

> > In recent years, the number of (police operated) surveillance cams
> > in the UK has risen dramatically. Now, can you honestly say that
> > this has brought the country to the brink of dictatorship? Right. IMO,
> > the "camphobia" (and DNA/fingerprint phobia etc.) is not based on any
> > hard facts whatsoever. If so, please present them now.
> Certainly. The UK hasn't been "brought to the brink of dictatorship" because,
> as Lord Hailsham put it in 1977, "the British system of government is an
> elected dictatorship". All my personal email is subject to interception
> by the police without a search warrant, at the say-so of "a senior police
> officer" (as defined by PACE(1996)). I am not free to read anything I want;
> Customs and Excise have the power to burn books (Obscene Publications Act
> 1958) without reference to a court (section two). Under current proposals
> I can be arrested and convicted of terrorist offenses on the word of, er,
> "a senior police officer" (thank you, Tony "get tough on terrorism" Blair).

Yet somehow most people don't get the same feeling while in Britain as in, say, Iraq. Same with the US. Afaik, there are laws in place that could effectively give the president (or some cloak and dagger agency) absolute power in case of an "emergency" (just about any excuse will do), but in reality it's still a fairly free society where one can still be on a subversive list like this one without being arrested, tortured and killed. No, I'm *not* glorifying any bureaucracy here, but just putting things in perspective. Yes, we're all being oppressed in one way or another, but for some reason true dictatorship always remains at bay.

> Right now the UK is not a functioning dictatorship, but an infrastructure
> is in place that would have made the East German Stasi drool.

Ok, I'm convinced. Though I don't expect an escalation in the (near) future, I would certainly join the resistance if the system ever turned "totalitarian" (rule of thumb: as long as one can send mails like this without getting arrested, things can't be that bad).

> What's the point of punishment? Revenge? Deterrence? Pandering to a
> vague sense of "it isn't fair" on the part of third-party bystanders?
> Bullshit. Deterrence doesn't work.

How can you know how many would-be criminals got deterred by (tough) punishments? There *are* no stats for that. It could be a handful or thousands, no-one knows. If deterrence didn't work, we could abolish the legal system and nothing would change, correct? I think not...

> Revenge is -- well, I view it as a
> perversion of a tit-for-tat game-theoretical stance, best treated as
> just that: a perversion.

Nope, disabling an opponent for good by killing him is rather effective, and thus rational. As Shaka Zulu (allegedly) said: "Never leave an enemy behind, for he will rise again and fly to your throat". Right he was. If only he had killed the enemy within...

In a more general sense, non-lethal revenge is useful because it sends a clear message to the offender and potential other offenders: "don't fuck with me or I'll kick your ass". Prevention. It potentially reduces the number of like incidents in the future. Not practicing any revenge/justice/retaliation/etc. sends an opposite signal: "I'm a weakling, come and do whatever you want to me". Not good.

The _real_ goal of a penal system should be to
> prevent recidivism.

Killing murderers is a rather sure way to prevent recidivism.

And I think you'd find, if you looked into the matter,
> that prisoners in jail are not pampered: they're brutalised.

I know, but ironically it's often the least guilty that suffer most, and the most brutal that suffer least. In previous posts I have outlined some prison reforms that would dramatically improve this situation (no physical contact between inmates, one inmate per cell, no or only strictly monitored contact between guards and inmate, high level of automation and of course *cameras all over the place*. If there is one appropriate place for a "surveillance society" then it would have to be prison, right? Lawyers, family members of inmates and civil right organizations could quite effectively keep an eye on things by means of direct video links and archives.

By the way, I don't reject rehabilitation (attempts) per se, only in the case of murderers. They have crossed the ultimate line, and deserve the ultimate punishment (IMHO, of course).

[gay sex punished]
> > Yes, but it *has* been abolished, hasn't it?
> No it hasn't.
> The age of consent has been lowered to 18.

At least there has been improvement then...

It _would_ be lowered to 16, in
> line with the heterosexual age of consent, if the House of Lords wasn't in
> the process of throwing a tantrum over the hereditary peers losing the right
> to throw tantrums.

Eventually it will go down to 16and below. Besides, how many people actually go to jail nowadays on that charge? On a lighter note, apparently UK women weren't allowed to have an asshole until recently. Hah hah!

> Incidentally, the legalisation of homosexuality in 1967 was so restrictive
> that, basically, it _only_ permits acts between two consenting males over
> the age of consent "in private". Some police forces have concluded that this
> means they must be the only people in the building, which one of them must
> own outright, and all the doors must be locked -- some some magistrates and
> judges have seen fit to go along with this. The result is that in 1997, more
> gay men were prosecuted for illegal acts and found guilty than in 1967.

I'm quite willing to belief that the UK justice system sucks. So does your electoral system, by the way. No offense though, Holland sucks just as hard, only in slightly different aspects.

What more do
> you want -- swastika armbands and a free secret policeman in every cereal
> packet?

That *would* be kind of convincing, wouldn't it? ;-)