Letter to Masschusetts State Legislators re: H.B 1787
By Jordan Riak
June 11, 2005

Dear Legislator:

I am writing to urge your support for HB 1787.

I assume there is no need for me to press the argument that children who are reared by attentive, supportive, non-hitting carers tend do better in every respect than children who are brought up in authoritarian, punitive environments. Expert opinion, and lay opinion among the informed, concur on that point. When we examine societies that adhere to the principles of nonviolence in childrearing, it comes as no surprise that those societies experience relatively fewer infant/child abuse-related fatalities, lower rates of spousal battery and less violent crime. The old adage, "one reaps what one sows," applies in child rearing if it applies anywhere.

Opponents of HB 1787 recognize that, given the current state of public awareness on the subject, they risk appearing stupid if they argue that assaulting and battering children is safe and efficacious. So they've reframed the debate in terms of "keeping government out of our private lives." That argument has instant broad appeal. Nobody wants Big Brother camping on the sofa.

But let's take a closer, more thoughtful look at the legitimate role of government in family matters. Doesn't it intervene when the private behavior of one citizen adversely affects the welfare of another citizen? Doesn't it tell us thou shalt not commit infanticide, polygamy, incest, honor killings, spousal battery or marital rape? Doesn't it demand that we give essential medical treatment to an ill child, and refrain from forced child marriage and forced child labor? So-called "family privacy" considerations don't, and shouldn't, trump those basic protections -- not if we wish to call ourselves civilized.

Government tells us how we are to dispose of our garbage and waste. It warns us as to what we can or can't burn in our own back yards. It peers into our autos and commands us to buckle up. It inspects and judges the very contents of our blood stream, and if it finds too much alcohol there while we're driving, it fines us and takes us off the road. Today, no sane person would call for the repeal of those laws. Yet, when they were introduced, they were bitterly opposed by many as unwarranted intrusions by government into the private lives of citizens. Time passes, habits change and resentments give way to reflection. Eventually, even the most ardent libertarian must concede that government sometimes gets important things right.

In closing, I urge Massachusetts lawmakers to get this one right. I urge them to extend the normal protection against assault and battery so that it includes citizens under the age of 18. It's the right thing to do.

FYI: Other countries that have already adopted the standard for child protection called for in HB 1787 are: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy (by case law), Latvia, Norway, Romania, Sweden and Ukraine. Sweden was the first in 1979 and Hungary the most recent, earlier this year.


Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir.

Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), P.O. Box 1033, Alamo, CA 94507-7033. Web site: "Project NoSpank" at www.nospank.net Telephone: (925) 831-1661

See related: Testimony of Susan Lawrence in support of HB 1787, Massachusetts State Legislature, June 7, 2005 and text of H.B. 1787

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