Every child deserves to be protected, whether from adult predators or child bullies, and the same goes for children of celebrities who are often the victims of harassment from photographers looking to make big bucks on some photos of famous families. Throughout the last year, actors Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner have been working diligently with California State Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles to protect their children from such harassment.
Harassment Bill Created to Protect Children of Celebrities
The bill they created, which was signed into law on September 24, is quite simple. It raises the penalties for anyone who harasses a child based on the employment of his or her parents. Pictures shall not be taken of the children without parental permission and anyone who intentionally harasses a child of any person because of that person's employment can be imprisoned for up to one year or be fined up to $10,000. For a second offense, the fine jumps to $20,000 and for a third offense it rises to $30,000. Hopefully that's enough to inspire photographers to back off a bit.
Garner, mom of three with husband Ben Affleck, never really allowed herself to believe the bill would pass. She told The Today Show that she and Affleck were looking into all of their options when it comes to protecting their children, including moving out of California.
"What we're hoping is that our kids' day-to-day experience will not be of really aggressive men yelling and screaming 5 feet from their faces. My kids take karate for example, and we have our classes at the same time every week. So the guys know when we have karate, and so 20 of them wait there for us every single class. So that's a lot of energy coming at little, little kids."
Now that the law has passed, Garner is hopeful that her children will not be subjected to the shouting and fighting that often surrounds them when out in public as photographers vie for the perfect shot.
Laws to Protect the Rest of the Children
No child should be ever be a victim, especially when it can be prevented. By standing up for the rights and safety of their own children, Berry and Garner are protecting children throughout Hollywood, but they are also reminding all parents of the actions we must take to protect all children. So while we should all celebrate this new law, despite the fact that it won't affect the majority of us, we should also take the opportunity to put all laws around children under a microscope.
For example, often times the rights of biological parents win out over what is best for the child. Children like Kahlil Wimes, who was taken from the foster mother who wanted to adopt him and given back to his biological mother despite the abuse he suffered at her hands. She and the boy's stepfather murdered him. At the murder trial it took the medical examiner over an hour to fully describe the scars and wounds that covered the six-year-old boy's frail body — frail because he suffered from malnutrition.
There's also the recent story of the 15-year-old girl who was forced by a judge to return to the home of a sex offender who would soon after kill her step-grandmother and rape the girl. The pictures taken of this child were by a sex offender who would sneak into the bathroom while the girl showered. The girl's mother pleaded with the court not to force the girl back there and the girl's teachers knew about the situation thanks to an essay that the girl wrote about it. But she was accused of lying. The girl escaped the home during a stand-off between the police and the sex-offender.
Children are often left in abusive homes or sent back to abusive homes because the support isn't available to care for them. And when the children seek help by talking to teachers or authority figures who simply don't care enough to look into the child's claims, the children give up hope. While this paparazzi law is a good one, those are the children who are visible. We need to pay more attention to the invisible children who are suffering much greater atrocities than we can even imagine, often at the hands of their own parents. Because no child's day-to-day experiences should include verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse of any kind.