NOTE: SEE THE BULLETIN ABOVE (AUG. 8) ABOUT THE CASE OF RACHEL BOOTH
Today, I'm going to write about an unpleasant -- but profoundly important -- subject: the mistreatment of children by their "parents" and others. In the fierce debate over pro-life and pro-choice, children who have been born sometimes get ignored.
In the Pittsburgh, PA, area this week a 13-year-old girl named Rachel Booth killed her father. While he slept, she took a shotgun -- he's taught her how to shoot -- and blasted both barrels into his face. I firmly believe the killing was justified, and later I'll tell you why -- and what its implications are for western Pennsylvania and the country generally.
Not to put you in suspense forever: apparently, from age 7 until her father's death, he abused her "mentally, physically, and sexually," as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains it. The girl and her 14-year-old brother lived with the father, who apparently had custody of the two. The mother lives elsewhere and has custody of a 12-year-old-child.
Rachel claims she and the brother at the home were beaten and terrorized incessantly by the father. There's not been much written about the brother, so I don't know what his story is.
The District Attorney and the prosecutor both visited the house where the shooting took place. As they entered through the front door, the two men were almost bowled over by the stench. As the D.A. (Steve Zappala) put it, the toilets were backed up, and there was little food or clothing in the place. He mentioned that the couch where the girl slept had no pillows or bed covering and, like everything else in the abode, was "filthy."
Zappala also noted that Children and Youth Services (CYS) had been "involved" with the family for years. CYS is an organization in PA synonymous with cluelessness, but it's not clear yet exactly what they knew about the situation.
After his visit to the "home," D. A. Zappala said that since last Tuesday (when the shooting took place), he had been trying to determine the following: "whether the girl was taking a place -- or was in fact saving her own life." It certainly appears that it was the latter.
Rachel Booth was originally held in a hospital ward at the Allegheny County jail. She's now in a psychiatric facility. She will be "tried" as a juvenile. My own hope is that she won't be "tried" at all -- and that she will find a family to live with that loves her.
Admittedly, there should be a careful investigation into her exact circumstances in what certain appears to be house-of-horrors. Also, Rachel will need counselling, probably for many years. At this point, there appears to be no reason to incarcertate any longer than is absolutely necessary.
So, what's my point? It's certainly true as Mike Huckabee said recently that children generally don't belong to the government. They belong, in essence, to the parents. An even better way of putting it is that parents don't "own their children. Instead, they're "on loan" from God, and parents have an obligation to bring them up in an atmosphere of firmness, decency, and love. "What ye do unto the least of them, ye do unto Me."
What if parents won't do that? Then, society -- the legal system -- has an obligation to step in and remove the children from an abusive environment. In the case of the 13-year-old, society defaulted on that obligation.
In most conservative homes -- heck, in most liberal homes -- abuse is not an issue. The problem is that when abuse, too much of which takes place in our country and in other countries, occurs out of sight it's too easy to keep it out of mind. At the least, America has to do a better job protecting its children from predators, some of whom turn out, sadly, to be parents.
No child should be subjected to what the young girl I've described went through. What may at first have looked like murder or manslaughter turned out to be a public service.
Stephen R. Maloney