By Tara Overzat
I can only hope that appropriate sentencing of child abusers has come along way since the late 90s, but I am not sure that is the case. It is as if there is an unspoken understanding that children are the “property” of their parents, so that we should not judge the methods of those parents lightly. It’s a sad, cruel world when we stop holding people up to the standards of normal, moral decency.
Chelsea Rogers, the girl found locked in a cage in a cold, unheated basement in Wisconsin during November 1997, appeared on Oprah today. Her parents received lenient sentences for abusing her and her and her 4 brothers, initially serving only 1 year of jail time at the county level, where both parents were allowed to leave the jail for up to 60 hours a week. That doesn’t sound like jail to me. That sounds like free rent. Apparently, the Judge Steven Weinke had been swayed by testimony that the young Chelsea had a mental health diagnosis – oppositional defiant disorder. Because, yes, the more troubled or sick your children are the more you should be allowed to abuse them, he seems to think. As does Elisa Baker.
Is it that child abuse is so hard to talk about that justices like Weinke may do as they please in handing out sentences? Is child abuse perhaps so pervasive that there are people on the bench who tacitly agree with the tortuous tactics? Is that how these slaps on the wrist occur?
Chelsea is not alone. Jail sentences have been found to be too lenient in the UK as well. Longer jail time can be a deterrent to the horrors of child abuse, and it is about time that it become the norm and not the exception. It is an injustice to have an abusive parent be on probation or receive a sentence as light as a year when the after effects of child abuse can last a lifetime.