Debra Harrell Update

[Content Note: Criminalization of need; rape culture; racism; classism.]

Last week, I wrote about Debra Harrell, the mother who was arrested after allowing her nine-year-old daughter to play in a nearby park while she was working at McDonald's.

teaspoon icon There is a fundraiser for Debra Harrell here, for those of you who were interested in donating.

teaspoon icon Also: There is a petition here, to the Director of Public Safety of North Augusta and the Acting State Director of the South Carolina Department of Social Services, requesting charges be dropped against Harrell.

Two other things:

1. @prisonculture reported over the weekend that McDonald's has terminated Debra Harrell's employment. So, basically, McDonald's fired someone because they don't pay her enough to afford childcare.

2. I've been thinking about this incident a lot in the last week, and how the decision to criminalize a mother's decision to let her child go to a highly populated public park, with a mobile phone, is deeply rooted in narratives of the rape culture, because sexual assault is the primary thing people fear happening to an "unattended" child.

But there are children sexually abused in daycare, or by babysitters. Even when those babysitters are family members. There are children sexually abused by their own parents. It's simply not realistic, at all, to assume that Debra Harrell's daughter was in more danger because she was playing in a public park than if she'd been in the care of another adult.

And it's frankly not right to suggest that any parent is capable of making sure no harm comes to their child(ren), ever. Obviously there are parents who are truly neglectful, but this simply isn't one of those cases.

All reason gets tossed aside like rubbish in discussions of child safety, but the truth is that the best way to make kids genuinely unsafe is to make sure they can't trust adults if or when they are in actual danger.

If you teach children that other adults who think something is wrong are inclined to call the police, which results in your mom being arrested and losing her job while you're put in foster care, those kids are not going to seek help from other adults, if even they really need it.

So, you know, congratulations to the Concerned Citizens who cared so much for this child's welfare that they got her forcibly removed from her mother and undermined her ability to seek help when she actually needs it.

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