Columns 2015

Do Alaska’s legislators just hate children?

Between trying to destroy our public schools by underfunding them, refusing an expansion of Medicaid that would help children throughout the state, and now trying to twist Erin’s Law so that it becomes nothing more than a bastardization of its original intent, I have to wonder just how much our current legislators really hate children. Or maybe they owe so much to their money overlords that they are not allowed to provide for children if it comes out of the pockets of the people who pay to get them into office.

I’m not sure how we elected a group of legislators who apparently have no concept of the reality of child sexual abuse and the fact that most abuse happens in the home with people the children know. To allow an opt out clause on this law simply means that the sexually abusing dad can keep abusing and keep his child from ever learning that childhood should not be a horrible nightmare.

How horrible, you ask? Let me give you an example. I sat in a courtroom once and listened to a man being sentenced on 10 counts of first-degree child sexual assault and 3 counts of second-degree child sexual assault. In testimony during the trial, we heard how the abuser took a child’s virginity while she screamed in the bedroom. The child was five. After that, she didn’t scream so much because you can only lose your virginity once.

That child’s abuse lasted a long time. It only ended when she finally found the words to tell her mother and her mother did the right thing and protected her daughter. It wasn’t easy for the mom and it was horrible for the child. But they got through it and as I sat in that courtroom waiting for the sentencing, I remember thinking that finally they would get some peace of mind and closure. That thinking lasted until I heard the judge hand down the mandatory sentence of seven years for first-degree child sexual assault and then add two weeks for each additional count except for the count pertaining to this child’s loss of virginity. For that the abuser was given an additional six weeks. The child, meanwhile, will serve a sentence of life because we can never give her back her innocence.

It’s possible that Erin’s Law might have given this child the ability to express herself earlier, might have given her the words to tell a trusted adult what was happening, might have stopped the abuse so that it didn’t color all her childhood memories. But she didn’t have what Erin’s Law could have given her. She didn’t have the words and she didn’t know she had the right to make it stop. And that meant suffering abuse for way too long.

So why the cretins in our legislature are having such a problem passing this law is beyond my comprehension. Why would you not want to protect children from this horror? Why would you not want them given the ability to express themselves from the earliest possible age if someone is hurting them? Why would you need more than ten seconds to bring this to a vote and pass it? 

And please spare me that tired old argument about not wanting Planned Parenthood in the school or near your child. They are not there to sell abortions, which, if you listen to some in this misbegotten group of legislators, would seem to be their only concept of what Planned Parenthood does. In actual fact, Planned Parenthood has the staff, skills and ability to provide an age appropriate curriculum in the schools that will help our children find their voice if they are being harmed.

The fact that when I was growing up child sexual abuse was never discussed or mentioned doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. The fact that these programs weren’t offered when some of us went to school doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be offered now. Objecting to this law isn’t a Christian thing and it isn’t a conservative thing and it isn’t a government interfering with a family thing.  In fact, the only people I can imagine truly objecting to this law are people who have the kind of secrets in their family that destroy a child’s mental, physical and emotional health. And they really aren’t the ones who should be having the last word on this law.