Friday, April 22, 2016

UPDATED: How to get a liberal to renounce everything he claims to believe in: Whisper the words “child abuse” in his ear

UPDATE, MAY 10: It happened again.  This time the "suspicious" passenger was writing something in what another passenger apparently took to be a secret code.  Actually, he was an Ivy League professor writing equations.

The Professor told The Washington Post's Catherine Rampell that, "It is hard not to recognize in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base."

Except, of course, when the issue is child abuse - then it becomes the ethos of too many on the Left as well.

Why is the kind of behavior that got the left rightly upset with Southwest
 Airlines, considered just fine when the fear is about child abuse?
By now, most people have heard about the Muslim student who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger overheard him speaking Arabic and reported him to the flight crew. Of course. Young male + Arabic = terrorist, right?

My fellow liberals were outraged – and rightly so.  The story made The New York Times, and was the subject of this segment on The Daily Show:

All that is exactly as it should be.

But compare that response to what happens when the same sort of “if you see something, say something” extremism is applied to child abuse:

As I noted in a previous post to this Blog, a post at Medium by Michele Booth Cole, who runs a “Child Advocacy Center” in Washington, urged us to turn in anyone we think might be sexually abusing a child if “you just get the feeling that something’s not right.”  In other words, the author of this post, a so-called child abuse professional, is urging all of us to behave exactly as the passenger on that plane did – report someone based on essentially nothing.

Yet the comments on this post were almost entirely favorable. The column got one endorsement after another – such as this one: “even a 1% risk of a child being at risk is worth saying something, and you can do so anonymously.”

Yes, isn’t it great?  Unlike that airline passenger, who at least had to reveal her own identity to the flight crew, you can accuse someone of child abuse based on absolutely nothing with no accountability at all!

This advice is given even though the consequences of a false report – for the child – are a lot worse than being thrown off an airplane.

As I noted in that previous post, Cole writes that

You may never be sure and you don’t have to be sure. If you report your suspicions, the professionals in law enforcement and child protection will follow up and find out what’s happening. You could literally be saving that child’s life.

Or you could be bringing down a world of misery upon that child.

First of all, referring to the child protective services workers who will respond to the call as “professionals” often is a stretch.  In Washington, D.C., where Cole is located, they’re generally well-qualified.  More typically, however, you’re talking about someone with a bachelor’s degree in anything and a quickie training course.  Law enforcement often isn’t any better.

These total strangers will interrogate the child about the most intimate aspects of her or his life.  That’s what happened in this case, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (with my organization’s Vice President acting as pro-bono counsel for the family).

Often that interrogation will be followed by a medical examination that, if anyone else did it, would be sexual abuse.

All this harm occurs before we even reach the issue of the child protective services worker possibly panicking – depending on whether a high-profile tragedy is in the news at the moment – and consigning a child who was not abused to the chaos of foster care.

Sometimes all this has to be done anyway.  The problem of child sexual abuse, like all child abuse, is serious and real. But starting this process in motion should be based on more than “you just get the feeling that something’s not right…”

Other advice given by Cole is even worse – at one point she actually encourages the dangerous practice of distracted driving.  Seriously.  She writes:

Let’s say a school employee needed to give a child a ride home, and only the two of them would be in the car. The adult and/or the child could be on a cell phone the whole time, giving a running description of the drive to the child’s parent or caregiver.

I've put a great big National Safety Council infographic at the end of this post in the hope that Cole will understand just how dangerous and irresponsible that suggestion really is, and everyone else will see how extremism and paranoia in the war against child abuse can trump research and sound judgment.

  More generally, her ideas would lead to a generation of paranoid adults raising a generation of terrified children. In fact, it’s worth comparing Cole’s column to the comments made by the right-wing Republicans in the Daily Show video.

Odd how easily we on the left understand all this when the issue is terrorism, and how easily many of us forget when the issue is child abuse.

Read more about how the normal due process and civil liberties protections liberals fight for in other fields don’t exist in cases of alleged child abuse.

Hands free not risk free
Provided by The National Safety Council