Florida Sends the Wrong Message when Allowing for the Death Penalty in Child Abuse CasesPin

Florida Sends the Wrong Message when Allowing for the Death Penalty in Child Abuse Cases

Long-time readers may already know that I respect Lauren Book’s work with her book, her charity, and as a State Rep. in Florida.

That being said, I think the latest bill she is sponsoring is a mistake.

Florida Lawmakers Unanimously Advance Bill Seeking Death Penalty for Pedophiles

I think it’s a mistake in two different ways. The first is that I’m opposed to the death penalty in general. We have executed far too many people who might not have been guilty, and the death penalty is enforced in incredibly biased ways. (When black people make up 12% of the US population but 41% of the death row population, there’s an obvious problem here.) Besides, if any state government is clearly biased in its beliefs and enforcement of the law, it’s Florida under DeSantis. Why we would want to give them another tool to kill people is beyond me. Do we think this will only be used in “the worst of the worst” cases consistently?

The politics aside, though, I have two problems with the article above and the comments Book and other politicians made.

  • We must stop telling abuse survivors their lives are ruined.

It’s insane that we would continue to tell survivors that there is no hope for them and then wonder why we keep losing so many to suicide. There is hope. There is always hope. Your life is not over because someone abused you as a child, regardless of how badly you were abused. Is there trauma, and can that trauma impact your life? Of course. In the same way, being in a car accident, losing a parent, or surviving a natural disaster can have a lasting impact. If we want to compare it to criminal acts, being robbed, assaulted, or harrassed can also have a lasting trauma impact. Abuse survivors are as capable of building happy and successful lives. If anything, Lauren is a perfect example of that. Is she arguing that her life is “ruined” beyond repair?

  • We are handing abusers a tool to manipulate children.

“If you tell anyone about this, I’ll be dead.”

That’s a lot to lay on a small child. Most child abuse is perpetrated by people known to the family. Do you think children will tell if they know there’s a good chance that person will be killed? How about the life-long trauma of knowing that your testimony caused another human being to die? That’s a lot of trauma on top of trauma.

I get it. Punishing child abusers is an easy public opinion win. No one wants to punish abusers less. As survivors, we must balance that with what is best for the child. Testifying in a child abuse trial is a traumatic experience as it is. We shouldn’t be asking kids to take responsibility for taking the life of their abuser on top of that or spend the rest of their lives knowing that someone died because they spoke up. Nor should we be arming abusers with another way to manipulate kids into staying silent.

We should focus on what is best for a survivor’s healing so they can have a life after abuse because that is possible.

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