Fantastic News (About a “Child Abuser”)

Hi Readers! Let us pause to celebrate a moment of sweet sanity. Remember Anne Bruscino, the young woman was put on New York State’s Child Abuse Registry for up to 25 years for the crime of accidentally leaving a toddler at a fenced-in, security-camera-monitored, daycare center playground for less than six minutes? (Here’s the original story, as reported by the Times Union.) Well now she has been officially taken off that list! She is free to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher!

Read the tale of this fantastic turn-around, just granted by a state appellate court. As the Times Union summed it up:

The state appellate panel’s decision [to de-criminalize the woman] underscores what some critics say is an inherently rigid system that can leave a person listed on a child-abuse registry for arguably minor errors involving children.

It was not just the the idea of minor errors getting a major punishment that appalled me, it was the reasoning behind this harshness. The original judge, Susan Lyn Preston, had argued this:

Clearly, Caitlin [the girl left behind] was at imminent risk of harm in this situation. The fact that the playground was surrounded by a chain-link fence does not eliminate the risk that Caitlin could have been abducted. A person with an evil intent could have easily gotten over the fence or lured Caitlin to the fence.

Easily?! As I wrote at the time:

Let’s see. What would it actually have taken for the girl to have been spontaneously abducted in the span of five minutes, as the judge so clearly believes was a distinct possibility?

First of all, a child abductor would have had to have been passing by the center at the precise time Caitlin was unchaperoned. Since, according to FBI statistics, there are only about 115 “stereotypical” abductions in the whole country each year (that is, abductions by strangers, intending to transport the child), this already would have been SOME rotten luck.

Then, that abductor would have had to immediately scale the fence, hide from the security cameras, avoid detection on the part of  anyone glancing out the office window, and pray that the child did not utter a single peep that might call attention to the crime. He’d also have to be out of there within about a minute, climbing back over the fence again.

This time while holding a 3-year-old.

Now, I’m not saying this could NEVER happen. If all the stars aligned AND the planets AND the world’s worst luck (and best fence-climber), there’s an extremely slight chance it could. Just like there’s a slight chance of getting hit by lightning in any 5  minutes you sit on your porch. But to say the child was in “imminent risk of harm in this situation” is the equivalent of saying that no matter how many fences, monitors and safeguards we put up, every child is at risk every single second an adult isn’t serving as a physical bodyguard. That’s a perception that is very common and really off-base.

Thank goodness the appellate court panel brought this case back to reality. The only unfortunate coda? Bruscino’s lawyer,  Kevin A Luibrand,  says he has seen at least  four similar cases in the past two years!

And so we fight on, for a world that does not believe our children are in terrible danger every time they are in public without an adult, no matter how briefly, no matter what the circumstances. — Lenore

Indictment: The McMartin Trial

Hi Readers! Thanks to one of you recommending this film — “Indictment: The McMartin Trial” — my husband and I just watched it today (a mere decade and a half after it came out, on HBO). Now all I can say is: Put it at the top of your Netflix cue.

As Wikipedia puts it so pithily:

A defense lawyer (played by James Woods) defends an average American family from shocking allegations of child abuse and Satanic rituals. After six years and $16 million, the trial ends with the dismissal of all charges.

Along the way, we watch pedophile panic seize the city, the country, the courts and the media. Almost unquestioningly, they accept the idea that dozens and dozens of children were raped and tormented by all the McMartins (even the old lady in the wheelchair), who were also supposedly busy making kiddie porn, taking the children to orgies at the car wash, and lopping the ears off bunnies, whose blood they guzzled.

Tot orgies at the car wash? Dead daycare bunnies? The stories are sickeningly reminiscent of the testimony at the Salem Witch trials, where witnesses swore they saw one “witch” turn herself into a cat, while others flew through the sky.

In modern-day L.A., as in Salem, a good portion of the public lapped it up (like bunny blood!). And today, even though the McMartin case was settled in 1990, it echoes in our collective eyebrow-raise at the idea of a man working in day care, or even in the idea of trusting ANYONE with our precious children. Because…you never know.

The movie itself, by the way, is superb. Great writing and swift pacing bring home the fact that we may THINK we are a country of rationality and fairness, but not once the media get a sexy story, we’re not. And meantime, if you want to make a buck or a reputation, all you have to do is tell us, weepily or angrily, that it’s “for the sake of the children.” — Lenore

Remember The Mom Arrested for Letting Her 12-Year-old Take Younger Sibs to Mall?

Hi Readers — Remember that story? A mom let her 12-year-old daughter and the girl’s friend take their combined three siblings to the mall. The kids shopped and had lunch but afterward, when the two older girls went into a dressing room to try on some shirts, they left the younger kids — 7 and 8 and a 3-year-old, who was in a stroller —  in the cosmetics department. Fearing God knows what (an attack by triplet pedophiles who snatch kids in public while nearby adults continue calmly selling cosmetics?), the clerks summoned mall security. Security brought the kids to the Macy’s office and hauled in the mom. The mom was arrested. And this is where the follow-up story, by Spiked Online’s fabulous Nancy McDermott, picks up. Read it here. And weep. — Lenore

Kodak Moment or Kiddie Porn?

Hi Readers — Above is the question a Walmart employee in Arizona asked himself when some parents brought in a camera memory stick to be processed. Seven or eight of 144 photos showed the family’s three girls  frolicking in the bath. Kodak Moment? Or kiddie porn?

We know what the employee decided — and we  know what the D.A. decided — because the girls, ages 5, 4 and 1 at the time, were taken away from the parents. For how long?

A month.

The parents weren’t even allowed to SEE their girls for several days. (Here’s the story.)

How can it take a month to figure out that — guess what? — a  lot of parents take pictures of their cherubs in the tub? My husband and I sure did, even though when we look back, our kids don’t look that cherubic! Come to think of it, cherub pictures have been around ever since artists started painting them in European art history class. (At least, that’s where I saw them.) Everyone loves a naked baby, and most of us undertand the desire to delight in their dumpling-ness has nothing to do with pornography!

Now the Arizona parents have turned the tables and are suing Walmart and the State for making “slanderous claims” against them.

How about also suing for an utter lack of empathy? Or utter oblivion to how happy it makes a parent’s heart to see three kids in a bath? Rub-a-dub-dub! To assume the very worst of parents at the get-go — as opposed to assuming normalcy — is exactly what is driving us all crazy today. When our first thoughts are perverse, it’s our society that’s perverted.

Meantime, and as a total aside, kudos to those parents for at least taking their pictures in to be printed. Ours are still in the camera, and have been for about 4 years. — Lenore