Girl, 15, kills brother. Police are baffled.
A 15 year old girl and her 11 year old sister have been arrested in the state of Florida for the fatal shooting of their brother who was sixteen. This is one of the first statements from the police:
"It's hard for us to get our arms around this act," Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter said. "This is the stuff nightmares are made of."
Hunter is right in that this is the 'stuff nightmares are made of' but it isn't hard to comprehend once the facts of the case become clear. The parents had left the two girls, as well as a 3 year old, in the care of the 16 year old while the father worked as a truck driver. The list of abuse experienced by the 15 year old in just one article:
- locking her in a room with a bucket and blanket for weeks on end
- she was sexually abused by an uncle
- 'sexual relationship' with the 16 year old brother
- multiple attempts at suicide which were not reported to the police.
The parents have now been released on bail following charges of neglect. The three year old has been taken into the custody of social services and the two girls have been denied bail and remain on remand whilst the prosecutor decides whether or not to charge the 15 year old as an adult. USA Today suggests the police are considering this act as premeditated murder because the 15 year old told the police she was angry that her brother had beaten her up earlier in the day. It is clear from evidence that the 15 year old had had help from the 11 year old in escaping the room she was locked in in order to access the gun in her parents room. It is also clear that this child living with domestic and sexual abuse.
I do not support charging teenagers as adults for most crimes unless there is psychological evidence that and older teenager is in fact a sociopath or psychopath and a clear danger to the public. In these situations, I do not believe adult prison is an appropriate situation until the child is of age - I don't believe the adult prison system in the US is an appropriate place for all non-violent offenders and many of the violent ones, especially if they have a history as victims of domestic or sexual violence.
Charging a 15 year old girl who has survived sexual and domestic and sexual violence as an adult is simply a disgrace. It makes a mockery of the justice system. This is without examining the clear abuse of power in the "sexual relationship" between the girl and her older brother who was given the power to lock her in her room for days at a time. In such a situation, consent is meaningless - if indeed the young girl thought she could 'consent'.
What this case does identify is the need for a trauma-informed juvenile justice system so that these two young girls can be helped to deal with their abuse. A 15 year old who had survived child sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle who then attempted suicide multiple times was clearly not being supported appropriately by either her family or the state. The parents removed her from school because she was "acting out". The police report says the girl was living in "inhumane conditions" yet the prosecutor is still contemplating with charging her with first degree murder as an adult. A trauma-informed child protection system should have intervened with this family after the uncle had been convicted for child sexual abuse. The local education authorities should have intervened when the child was removed from school to ensure that her welfare was being considered appropriately by the family. The parents should have sought professional help when the child attempted suicide.
Now, we have a situation where two traumatised children are being held in different juvenile detention facilities while the prosecutor decides whether or not to treat them as an emotionally stable adult. Whatever happens next, three children have been let down by their parents and the state. Since the media has chosen to identify them, they will live the rest of their lives in the public eye being vilified.