Mariantonia Mejia | Staff Writer
A controversial new law involving the death penalty went into effect in Florida on Oct. 1.
Signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, the law states that rapists with victims under the age of 12 can now face the death penalty for child rape.
This new law explicitly goes against the 2008 Supreme Court ruling which stopped states from imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child, when the crime does not involve a child’s death. DeSantis is fighting this decision with this new law in effect.
At first glance, this seems like a relatively straightforward concept: one that is supposedly meant to prevent these kinds of crimes from happening in the first place.
Unfortunately, as has been proven time and time again, there is not much evidence that shows that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime. This bill also brings forth the major potential problem with victim reporting.
According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), of victims of rape and sexual assault, 93% of minor victims knew their rapist. 34% of the perpetrators were family members.
In a situation where, as a child, you are being sexually assaulted by a family member, or someone you are meant to love and trust, it is already incredibly difficult to come forward.
Too often in instances of familial rape, children are called liars or shunned by the rest of the family because the adults involved hold some sense of twisted loyalty to the rapist by nature of them being blood.
Even if the reaction from the family is one of support it is extremely difficult to prosecute. The possible long term mental and emotional damages that can occur is unforeseeable in cases like these.
Many families are unwilling to put their children through that, as well as many children being afraid to go through the process themselves.
With these pre-existing issues affecting the reporting of these crimes as is, the added element of fearing that a family member will be executed by the state if they speak up is likely to increase the number of child victims that stay quiet.
Further, this law also poses a threat to the life of childhood victims of sex crimes.
Though there is not a ton of research on the subject, it can be assumed that, if the punishment for murder is the same as the punishment for child rape, rapists have no incentive to keep their victims alive. In fact, fear of legal repercussions could potentially make the rapist all the more likely to end their victims’ life to ensure they get rid of the evidence.
Along with this, the number of false convictions in this country alone is enough to never want anyone executed by the state ever again, no matter how much evidence there may appear to be on the matter.
At least 195 people that were sentenced to death and executed since 1973 have been exonerated. With this knowledge, it feels barbaric to make the death penalty an option when it could have such tragic ramifications.
There is nothing more disgusting or evil than someone who commits rape, especially the rape of a child, and is the most depraved action a human being can carry out.
It is because of this truth that I want to guarantee that the law is enacted in a way that will ensure the safety of victims of childhood sexual abuse.
While I more than understand the instinct to want to protect our children, the line of carceral thinking that touts the death penalty as a grand solution, is nothing more than a counterproductive measure that will endanger lives rather than save them.