Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Ever Expanding Category of "Victim"

After forty years of governing through crime, it is clear that to be a full citizen of the United States, you need to be a crime victim. It is only by occupying this category that a person can obtain the highest regard of state and society, and the broadest assemblage of rights.

Fortunately for those who have not actually suffered a violent criminal assault, law-makers ceaselessly work to expand the category of victim. The most recent case in point is a new California law signed by Governor Schwarzenegger and authored by one of the Assembly's most liberal members, Mark Leno.

As reported by Jill Tucker in today's SFChron:

The new law is a major shift in how the state defines a victim of crime, acknowledging that for children, at least, simply witnessing a violent act can result in trauma-related mental illness.

"I am thankful to the governor for recognizing that children who live in our tough neighborhoods bear the scars of violence they see every day," said Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who wrote the bill after The Chronicle last year reported widespread post-traumatic stress disorder among youths living in violent neighborhoods.

The legislation, AB2809, allows young bystanders to access funding from the state's Victim Compensation Program. A legislative analysis estimated that 40 children statewide would apply for the funding annually - far fewer than the number who need it, mental health professionals said Wednesday.

Of course there is nothing invidious about trying to use state funds to help children who suffer from "post-traumatic stress disorder." What is perverse, is the mentality that assumes only traumas whose origin lies in crime, are worthy of state concern. What about the child who witnesses their loved ones die in a car accident, or whose parent is killed in Iraq, or whose parents have been shipped off to state prison for being addicted to drugs?

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