Columns 2008

There has to be a way to break the cycle

I wrote a column a few weeks ago about pseudo-families. State and federal rules require social workers to try to reunite these dysfunctional families when children have been removed from them despite the fact that healing something that never existed is darn near impossible. I had a very interesting e-mail response to that column that struck me as even more pertinent after reading about the sex trafficking trial currently happening in Anchorage.

The trial is about whether or not the accused was prostituting the girls who lived in his house, paying them in drugs and periodically beating or abusing them. Pretty much business as usual for a pimp and his whores.

A variety of women have taken the stand to testify about what did or didn’t happen in the homes the accused owned.  But only one really caught my attention. She told the jurors that she was young and already walking the streets when she decided to hook up with him. She claims he supplied drugs as her pay for turning tricks for him. Somewhere along the line, she got pregnant, had the baby, and left for the lower 48 where the child was murdered in a fashion not described. She then returned to Alaska, went back to prostitution and drugs, and now sat in a courtroom testifying against her alleged pimp.

The defense attorney suggested she was testifying against his client in order to get out of jail and into a drug treatment program. Why does she suddenly want to get sober? Because she’s pregnant again. Pregnant and using drugs. Again. One child murdered. A replacement on the way.

And that’s when I remembered this e-mail I’d received. In it, the writer suggested that there was little use in taking children out of homes after the damage was already done to them – the damage of alcohol and drugs while in the womb or the damage of an abusive, violent, dysfunctional family.  All too often, by the time the state steps in, the children no longer stand a chance at ever being healthy. So the writer suggested that we come up with an incentive plan for people like this prostitute to keep them from reproducing. The basic idea is to give people something they want in exchange for them using some form of birth control.

For instance, someone facing jail time for domestic violence could have his sentence cut in half if he agreed to have something else cut. A woman in jail for criminal neglect of her children could get out of jail free so long as she showed up regularly for birth control shots. Miss a shot, go to jail and serve your time. 

I realize this idea is causing many civil libertarians to have mini-strokes. There will be numerous comments about starting down a slippery slope that will end in enforced sterility for all men and women who do not fit the blonde hair, blue eyed Germanic ideal. There will be ranting about a person’s right to control his/her reproductive organs.  To all of which I say, hooey.

First of all, the key to this program is that it would be voluntary. Plus, every time that I think about the baby now growing in that woman, a baby already exposed to drugs and probably alcohol; being born to a mother who already had one child murdered; being born to a woman whose job resume reads whore, prostitute and streetwalker; all I can think is that a woman’s right to reproduce is running right up against her right to bring a damaged child into this world that she will probably damage even more and then you and I will pay to pick up the pieces – assuming the child isn’t murdered first.

So I hope this lady gets clean and sober.  I hope she finds a way to a better life. But until then, it’s a good bet that her baby, in all likelihood the result of a drugged, drunken, animalistic sexual encounter, will have a miserable, painful life. There has got to be some way to stop that, some way to break the cycle.  There simply has to be.