Pilar Schiavo | When I Put a Pedophile Behind Bars

Pilar Schiavo, Democratic Voices

I am a survivor of sexual abuse. It’s not a story I’ve told before — reliving it brings back terrible memories, as any survivor knows. But I will simply not allow my political opponents to accuse me of “protecting pedophiles” when I myself was a victim of one. 

As a mother and a state assemblywoman, I have a responsibility to my daughter and our community — which is why I am standing up to tell my story now and to set the record straight. The same way I stood up in court as a child to put my abuser — a pedophile — behind bars.

Growing up, we lived in a rural neighborhood. Our community felt safe — everyone knew each other, we left our doors unlocked, and I could go outside and play for hours unsupervised. 

Our home shared a driveway with our neighbor, a man known and trusted in the neighborhood, who kept a freezer full of popsicles for all of us neighborhood kids during hot summers. 

One horrifying day, I was forced to learn a soul crushing lesson: Even people who you know and trust can hurt you. 

After telling my parents what happened and finding out that I wasn’t the only one who was a victim of his abuse, we told the authorities. 

Talking to law enforcement about the details of what happened to me, I sat there terrified. It was hard enough that I went through it, but having to say it out loud to strangers — words that I was far too young to use in conversation — made me shake. 

During the trial when I was sitting in front of a judge, my abuser asked his attorney to move out of his way so he could “see me clearly” while I testified against him.

I immediately got sick to my stomach. To this day, that memory sends a chill down my spine. 

The worst part, though, was when he got out of jail because he was still my neighbor. From that horrific day until I moved away for college, I would run and hide every time he drove up our shared driveway so he didn’t see me. I avoided playing in our yard, in direct view of his property, if I saw his vehicle parked in his driveway behind my house. 

And for years, I was terrified every night as I went to bed, afraid that he would kidnap and kill me as retaliation for testifying against him. 

What happened to me as a child drives me and the work I do in the Assembly today, working to protect kids and keep our community safe. 

This year, I am the author of a bill to support victims of crime and their families — which was approved by the Assembly and is now moving through the Senate with bipartisan support — the co-author of two bills to expand punishments for child pornography, and last year I supported a bill that’s now law, which increases criminal penalties for child sex trafficking. 

I also supported two bills tackling the fentanyl crisis, and a number of bills related to retail theft and domestic violence. 

And in a tough budget climate, I fought for and won over $9 million in state funding for our community to increase school safety, provide mental health and basic needs support for our students, house foster youth, and provide critical funding for a local domestic and family violence survivor resource center.

My actions on behalf of children and families speak for themselves. 

Unfortunately, today’s politics often disregard the facts, and partisan rhetoric can eclipse one’s work and impact. It is how my opponents justify falsely accusing me of protecting pedophiles, using tactics that are beyond appalling. It’s infuriating how destructive campaigns and politics have become. 

But as a mother, survivor of assault, and a state Assembly member, I cannot let their offensive attacks go unanswered. I was that child who they’re now using as a political pawn, and it’s unforgivable and disgusting. 

Today, my promise to you is that I will continue to do all I can to always protect our children, stand up for what’s right, and never play politics with people’s lives.

Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, represents the 40th Assembly District, which includes most of the Santa Clarita Valley in addition to the northwest San Fernando Valley. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.

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