New York State’s Minimum Age to Charge Juveniles is 7 Years Old

I thought about reviving my blog with another fragrance review. Something nice, light, fun, topical even. In fact, I attended a Zoom sniffing of the Ulrich Lang line with Sniffapalooza just last night and while it’s always fun, I was actually very impressed by the frags themselves, which is not always the case. In fact, I put Anvers back on this morning because it’s cloudy and rainy in New York, and Anvers feels like I’m putting on a really nice jacket, and I have my window open on Beautyhabit’s pay page because I’m very seriously considering purchasing APSU.

Unfortunately Twitter had another idea this morning, as this link came across my feed:

So of course I was immediately dropped into the buzz of thoughts that went “holy shit” and “what the fuck” and “obviously this kid was abused why are we arresting kids” and “how do we have college students like Michael Beebe get away with their shit for so long and we’re for some reason arresting 7-year-olds” and “we really just continue to let the children down don’t we, we fucking destroy them” all in a weirdly Midwestern-tinged head voice. I think I’m pretty clear what my answer is to this headline’s question.

I did several deep dives on childhood abuse over the year as a survivor myself and even in the worst cases I’ve read, where the child does not seem “redeemable” there’s serious, serious abuse and neglect that needs to be addressed. I recall the “worst” case in Dr. Bruce Perry’s book about the teenager who was booked for assault (what I remember from the case is that he was 14 or 15 or so, and raped and murdered two 13-year-old girls) where there was seemingly no abject abuse or neglect in the household– in fact, the teenager’s older brother seemed perfectly fine, did well in school, by all accounts loved his parents, and became a successful plumber later on in life. Interviewed, the parents were aghast at their kids actions and did the “correct” response to your child committing a heinous act: expressed remorse and guilt and sadness for their child. I think they enrolled him in school-recommended behavioral and remedials, because that’s all they could really afford.

And then you find out that these parents, who were not who we would consider the type of parents that could create a murderer, that’s not where I’m going with this, had accidentally made decisions that messed their younger child up from birth. You find out that the mother is herself a little developmentally and emotionally delayed. This was absolutely fine when the couple had their first child while they were living with her family because whenever she got tired or frustrated or didn’t understand, the child’s aunt or grandmother could swoop in and take over. This situation is a godsend to the most educated mothers so you can imagine how much it helped her to have someone help parent her first son. However their second child was born after the couple moved into the city away from her family. The father spent time with his family, but he also worked very long hours and since they weren’t big earners, the mother was left to handle an infant and a toddler on her own when she hadn’t even really taken care of one child herself yet. Still, she did what she thought was correct. She made sure to feed, change, and clean her children every day…and would regularly leave her infant son at home alone while she took her older son to the park first thing in the morning. She would return once to feed and change him, and then everyone would be home by the time dinner came around. The couple thought he was a wonderful baby, because after a little while, he stopped crying.

Do you see yet what the issue was there?

The second case that comes to mind is a young girl, probably around 7 as well actually, maybe 5-years-old, who was going around trying to expose herself to her classmates, and attempting other inappropriate acts. This is a much shorter story thankfully: the girl was discovered to have been sexually abused at home and was mimicking the behavior at school, and if I recall correctly, was taken out of that situation and worked with Dr. Perry on recovery.

And of course, my own childhood abuse comes to mind. Specifically the time I smacked a kid in elementary school on a dare and thought it was funny, because at that point I’d been thrown around a bathroom and whipped with clothing hangers more times than I could count. At that point my neighborhood friends had already actually approached my door to ask if I could come out and play and heard me scream-crying, which of course I denied, instead saying they must have heard my baby brother fussing, because I guess kid-me was already convinced that being smacked around made me the embarrassment. But one smack didn’t hurt anyway, especially not from tiny, weak me right? I expected the kid I hit to get angry, to hit back, something I still expect out of others, but he cried instead because, obviously, I hurt him. Oh, quick shout-out to that kid, and also to the friend egging me on. I won’t name either of you, and I kind of hope you’ve both forgotten that this has happened at all honestly, you were both very nice actually, neither of you could have known how broken I was.

I believe, and my memory of this is extremely fuzzy and cuts out basically immediately after the conversation in the nurse’s office wherein I was finally crying and scared and showing them my bruises because they were going to call my mom, this is probably the day my mother was ordered to stop hitting me. I have no idea, and likely will never know because I do not want to ask, what happens next except that it is suddenly summer break, and I barely remember what happens even then except that I started going to a summer day camp in another town instead of the local one, and when I am slotted to go to my local middle school two years later, my parents decide to send me to the local Catholic school instead despite never having been any type of religious. To, and I’ve heard them use this term for both this decision, and the time they somehow convinced me that me going to a Jesuit college was a good idea (because they left me with either the Jesuit college in another state, or I’d have to stay at home while going to Rutgers, and I was barely allowed to entertain any of the other liberal arts schools I had been accepted to) after what happened with this first decision, keep me around “normal people”, so that I could be better influenced. I don’t even know for sure what that was supposed to mean, as we lived in overwhelmingly white towns with middle-class or higher incomes. Maybe they thought religious people were more neurotypical. Maybe they were afraid of gay people, so the alternative clothing of some of the students at Emerson scared them, I truly have no idea.

Anyway, all of this to say that it would have been absolutely absurd to book me for assault at age 7-8 or however old I was. It would have been massively unhelpful and extremely detrimental to any recovery process I attempted then or in the future. The minimum age should not be fucking 7, and in some states, younger, that’s horrendous. And yes, I believe that is more horrendous than hearing that a 7-year-old raped someone, most likely another child, because one is a single situation that you can work to mend. The other is something entirely broken within the systematic way we work with and treat children. It directly speaks to a situation caused by more and other abuse and arresting this child will more often than not beget more and other abuse. I would rather my tax money go to funding therapeutical programs than trying a 7-year-old on a stand. And I’m sure someone’s going to be like, “yeah, but girl you don’t have a kid, what if he raped your kid instead of this hypothetical child you don’t know?”

I have had 27+ years with that type of righteous anger, because it’s a generally socially acceptable way for a teenager to express pain. I know exactly how empowering anger can be, how soothing vindication feels, and how destructive it actually is, and the days I forget are not good days for myself or the people around me. If that day comes where I’ll have to face down this statement, I just hope I do not lose out to anger.

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