Wyoming legislature commits an anti-child act in broad daylight
By Jordan Riak

March 14, 2002

Linked below are letters to Wyoming Governor Geringer from Eric Kanter, M.D., Charles F. Johnson, M.D., Jordan Riak, Jeff Charles, Jimmy Dunne, Mary Lansing, Benny Wasserman, Theo Wells, Eric Perlin, Connie L. Perry, Ph.D., Christa Hargraves, Chris Dugan, Misty Melvin, Wally Phillips, Laurie A. Couture, M.Ed.

Also see a letter of criticism to Jordan Riak from Wyoming Representative Ann Robinson and Riak's reply.

With more than 3 million children reported abused or neglected each year, the U.S. ranks among the worst societies in this regard. While other advanced nations actively promote healthful child rearing practices, and give children the normal protection under law that every other class of citizen takes for granted, the United States seems stuck in an earlier era when children were chattles and loved best when out of sight. It takes a gruesome multiple murder of babies like the Yates case to get our attention, to prompt us to think, if only briefly, about the awful vulnerability of children. But from the moment the perpetrator has been found guilty and sentenced, we feel absolved of any further responsibility for children. No need to inform ourselves about the root causes of the killer's behavior so that we can take steps to prevent recurrences. No need to ask how she was mistreated as a child so that we can learn how to protect others. If, when she was little, her innocence was pumped full of crazy theories about sin and damnation, and if she was whipped black and blue until she permanently lost the capacity to think or behave rationally, we insist this is none of our business. We look the other way. But now, grown up and having produced and destroyed a family of her own, this killer mom has caught our attention. But all we see is a lawbreaker, and for that we have the perfect solution. After all, you don't think we've been building and staffing all these fine new prisons for nothing, do you?

Speaking about solutions, let's look at Wyoming.

The legislature of Wyoming has just come up with a novel solution to the child abuse epidemic: Senate File 74 (Senate Enrolled Act 46). This law makes it okay for a parent to bruise a child. It lowers the standard of acceptable treatment of children to such an extent that unless a parent causes a child to be hospitalized, "abuse" hasn't occurred. In effect, the lawmakers have declared child abuse non-existent. George Orwell couldn't have foreseen this.

The day will come (sooner than they think) when the legislators of Wyoming will be old and frail, and their grown children will be looking after their needs. Let's hope, for the parents' sake, that their children's standard for 'reasonable' treatment of the elderly is a higher standard than the one Senate File 74 establishes for the treatment of the young. But don't count on it. Experience teaches that usually we get what we give -- in the parlance of computer programmers, "garbage in, garbage out." Senate File 74 is garbage legislation: it was created by child abusers for the protection of child abusers. Governor Geringer should have vetoed this dangerous and shameful legislation before it harmed somebody.

Message to Project NoSpank's list, March 16, 2002

First, to readers who wrote to Wyoming Governor Geringer urging him to veto legislation that would legalize the bruising of children, thank you! Your letters are excellent. I plan add a few more of them to www.nospank.net/file74.htm shortly. They'll serve as a model and a spur to others who still haven't written. If bruising children becomes legal in Wyoming, and the consequences become apparent -- which inevitably they will -- the governor will bear the responsibility equally with the foolish authors. He won't be able to claim he didn't know. Your letters nullified that alibi. Some readers have written me to requested the exact wording of the legislation in question or a link to it. I apologize for not giving that information in the first place. Here is the relevant excerpt under heading "14-3-202 Definitions" See below. The new, especially slippery language is underlined. Following the excerpt is a link to the full text on the Wyoming government site.


(B) "Physical injury" means [death or]* any harm to a child including but not limited to disfigurement, impairment of any bodily organ, skin bruising if greater in magnitude than minor bruising associated with reasonable corporal punishment, bleeding, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma or substantial malnutrition;

* The words "death or" have been struck.

The complete text is at http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2002/enroll/sf0074.pdf

I will update www.nospank.net/file74.htm with the above information.

Where to write:
Governor Geringer's e-mail: governor@missc.state.wy.us
Telephone: (307)235-3200, ask for the Governor's office
Casper Star-Tribune Letters to the Editor: letters@trib.com

Message to Project NoSpank's list, March 20, 2002

I am sorry to inform you that Governor Geringer of Wyoming has signed legislation making Wyoming a safe place for child abusers/bruisers. The e-mail our friends have been receiving from his office reads as follows:

Governor Geringer received your e-mail on Senate Enrolled Act 46, and I am responding on his behalf.

Bills go through a stringent process before they reach the desk of the Governor. The Governor signed the bill on March 17 as a result of strong support from the Legislature and Wyoming's constituents.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Susan Green
Governor's Office

Well, we tried. And we'll keep trying. Sometimes it may seem that we are attempting to thaw a glacier with a candle, but that's an illusion that emerges in moments of disappointment. I am confident we are winning this struggle against ignorance and denial despite the occasional setback. I remember once at a conference on child abuse in Sydney, where I had set up a table to distribute anti-corporal punishment leaflets, an employee of the New South Wales Education Department approached, picked up some of the printed materials and said: "I can't remember any issue that has caused more broken friendships in the department than this one." A few years later, the cane was abolished, and surely by now old friendships have mended. Today, if we could see behind the scenes, I believe we'd see a similar process taking place in Wyoming. Some bruised friendships are surely occurring over the question: to bruise or not to bruise children. Of course, they'll get it right eventually. There are some very intelligent voters in Wyoming.

I will preserve and relocate on the Web site your excellent letters to the Governor Geringer. They'll serve as a powerful teaching tool for future writers on our subject. Thank you.

See letters to Wyoming Governor Geringer from: Eric Kanter, M.D., Charles F. Johnson, M.D., Jordan Riak, Jeff Charles, Jimmy Dunne, Mary Lansing, Benny Wasserman, Theo Wells, Eric Perlin, Connie L. Perry, Ph.D., Christa Hargraves, Chris Dugan, M.A., Misty Melvin, Wally Phillips, Laurie A Couture, M.Ed., Dana Cayce

Also see a letter of criticism to Jordan Riak from Wyoming Representative Ann Robinson and Riak's reply.

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