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

Charlie Stross (
Mon, 30 Nov 1998 13:25:42 +0000

On Sun, Nov 29, 1998 at 02:45:57PM +0100, den Otter wrote:
> Well, it is true that many of society's problems are caused by parents
> abusing their kids. In fact, afaik, child abuse is a much bigger problem
> than all other crimes combined.

Er, I'd take exception to that assertion. Do you have any figures to back it up?

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.

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.

> 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?")

> 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?")

> 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 ..!

> 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?

> 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.

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.

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 ...