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This morning I read an article in This Is True. On its own, it elicited nothing but nodding agreement from me. Essentially, a man in Australia had caught his 17-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter assaulting a 13-year-old kid, breaking the kid's jaw; he drove his son and daughter to the police station to face charges for what is, after all, a criminal assault.

Guaranteeing a Lesson Is Learned
The kids of an Ipswich, Qld., Australia, family are in a heap of trouble. Their father says he caught his 17-year-old son and his 15-year-old daughter bashing a 13-year-old boy so badly that they broke his jaw. The man, identified only as "Matt", took the victim home to his parents, then took his two children to the police station and turned them in for the crime; they were charged with assault. Matt said he will support any charges pressed by the victim's parents. He also sold his son's car and his daughter's horse as punishment. Matt said he was enraged because he had been a victim of similar attacks when he was younger. A police spokesman said his timing is good: it was "Anti-bullying awareness week". The two children are reportedly remorseful, and hope the money from the sale of the horse and car will go to the victim. (JW/Sydney Morning Herald) ...I guess "anti-bullying awareness week" worked.

- This Is True (Premium) #878, 10/04/2011, quoted with permission

Most people commenting on it seem to agree that he did exactly the right thing; the kids learn that they're not above the law, that they can't beat up weaker people at will. They also won't have a criminal record as adults, because it'll be expunged when they turn 18. No downside, as far as I can tell.

Jennifer, the article's author, disagrees. She thinks the father, Matt (or "Matt the Ratt", in her words) is "a prick" and says "I hate what they did, but I hate what their father did more". Yes, in her learned opinion, he should have ignored a crime that, let's recall, hospitalised a child, just because he was related to the perpetrators.

In the comment thread, after well over 60 comments lauding the father, she still refuses to believe that she could be wrong, and bone-headedly even seems to imply that she's being bullied:

"I have read many of the comments on the story and so far I am getting no agreement. I can only hope that there are people out there who would have agreed with me but aren't the type to send in comments."

Oh, poor her! She's sided with abusive criminals against a father who - on the evidence shown - has done nothing except teach his kids a lesson in taking responsibility and not battering people, but she remains convinced that she's in the right and that she's actually supported by a majority that just happens to consist of very shy people.

On the internet.

Anyway, I'm not going to quote her whole self-righteous tirade here - you can read it on that page I linked to - but I will quote my reply to her. Her remarks are in red.

"HAVE YOU ever seen a fistfight among teenagers? I can guarantee you that the victim hit back, he wasn't tied up and beaten to a pulp. He probably got a good one in on the sister and the brother lost it."

I have, yes. I've seen many that weren't bilateral - you make a great many assumptions about the fight, including assuming that a 13-year-old is evenly matched against a 15-year-old AND a 17-year-old. What on earth makes you assume that he "got a good one in on the sister"?

Jennifer, you have your opinion. But you time and again make the egregious mistake of assuming more than you know, and assuming that your way is the only way things could have happened. And the arrogance of blaming the victim (which you must agree that your remark above reads like) is typical of the thinking that I often experienced growing up.

From the victim's perspective.

"I am so sorry for those of you who come from families which would call for a police arrest. ... I know nobody in my family would EVER call the cops on me nor I on them (unless it's murder or armed robbery)."

What about rape? Or tax fraud? Domestic abuse? Animal cruelty? Neglect of a child? If you'd staked down somebody's cat and dismembered it, would you have been reported? If you'd keyed someone's car, would you have been reported? Where do you think the line should be drawn?

A crime is a crime, and you are asserting that you believe that anyone you are related to should be above the law. Either that, or you're saying that your parents had the arrogance and disregard for the law to believe that they could pick and choose which laws would apply to their offspring.

"THE VICTIM HAS A GUARANTEED assault case here. They should have gone that route. That gets them into court, etc. but that would probably have taken a different route through the judicial system."

What different route? It would still be a criminal case (unless they opted for a civil suit, in which case the punishment would be financial rather than custodial, and probably affect the parents more than the perpetrators of the crime), it would still be a prosecution, and the only difference in outcome is that the father could have found himself facing charges of perverting the course of justice.

Or are you still adamant that he's to blame for their crime?

"IF ANY of you were ever in that situation, I PROMISE you that if you went ahead and turned the kids in to the cops, whatever the outcome, you'd regret it with a broken heart sometime later - whether it be days or decades."

Many have been in that situation. I've spoken to many - both parents and delinquents - who have done exactly what he did. In the vast majority of cases, it has worked; the kids have understood that they can't flout the law, that their actions have consequences, and that beating a vastly weaker child (after all, this is technically a case of child abuse) is never acceptable. Of those I've spoken to, there have been no broken hearts. And, of course, in this case there would - as several have already attested - be no criminal record remaining after the age of 18.

"Did any of you ever beat up your younger brother or sister when you were young ?????? Maybe not jaw-breaking but how can you tell how a body will react when hit?"

My sister did kickboxing and plays rugby. We'd have the occasional fight, but it was never in anger. Are you seriously suggesting that beating A CHILD UNTIL HIS JAW BREAKS is acceptable or excusable?

"I hate what they did, but I hate what their father did more."

This remark has me absolutely fuming. You can have your opinion. But you are condoning the abuse of a child and pillorying a man for taking responsibility and disciplining his children in a proportionate and utterly appropriate way.

I am bloody glad you never had anything to do with raising me.

Oh, and so what if the kid hit back? Do you not understand how much difference there is in kids between the ages of 13 and 17? So what if he hit back? That's called self-defence. What was he supposed to do, lie back and think of England?

Incidentally, I also sent an email to the editor, Randy, about it; he very kindly gave me permission to quote the story for this post.

The gall of this reporter, blurting out a blanket accusation that anyone who's ever been beaten up by a bully probably deserved it ("I can guarantee you that the victim hit back... He probably got a good one in on the sister...") and that family ties should take precedence over the rule of law... What if a police officer catches a relative breaking into a shop, should they look the other way? As someone who has been bullied - and beaten up - in the past, that sort of presumptuous, stupid arrogance really annoys me.

Any thoughts?

An update

Date: 2011-04-16 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It seems "Jennifer" has posted another reply, once again ignoring all the posts in favour of being outraged that nobody's agreeing with her:

Family is the exception to the rule in these cases.

I'm just glad I'm not in yours and you are not in mine.

There is nobody in my family that would EVER have done that to me or any other of us. Had it been a crime that made it obvious the perpetrator had a mental problem, then perhaps it would be appropriate to get them to a shrink. But to turn your OWN KIDS into the police is, to me, an atrocity.

I am so surprised at the number of people who don't agree with that. But in any case, it's probably been around the block enough times that it's getting tiresome. I'm moving on.

Re: An update

Date: 2011-04-16 09:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So here's my reply to her most recent comments (in ):

Sorry if I'm flogging a dead horse by this point, but as someone who has been bullied throughout school, and having many friends who have suffered various combinations of violent and sexual abuse, Jennifer's childish "I'm finding this boring so I'm going to move on" approach is really getting my goat.

So one last time, then - and Jennifer, please read this carefully, and THINK about it before you respond with another knee-jerk "you're all picking on me" response.

I find it sad that you lack the empathy or maturity to even try to understand why your take on it strikes many as repugnant.

I am so surprised that anyone could continue to maintain your blinkered, never-mind-the-victim approach even after dozens of people have explained to you why it is offensive.

You're finding it tiresome? You, Jennifer, are an apologist for every bully who's even got off the hook because of their parents pulling strings for their little darling, for every criminal who went free because their father made a call to a golf buddy, and for every child molester who goes unpunished because "Uncle Bob wouldn't do that, stop telling tales".

are the sort of person who empowers those people to do what they do. are perpetuating the mindset that "we don't turn in family". have highlight in glorious technicolour one of the reasons that personal responsibility has become a rare commodity.

So please, before you "move on", answer these few questions from someone who wishes his tormentors' parents had shown the guts "Matt" did:

- You've said you'd never have been turned in "unless it was murder" - so where does the line go? Attempted murder? Child abuse? Rape? Child sexual abuse? Armed robbery? Dealing drugs? Exactly which of those crimes do you in your wisdom believe can be adequately handled at home by a parent? How long would you have been grounded if you'd, say, beaten up a pensioner and broken their jaw?

- Can you honestly look any of those who have been bullied (a term that in its blandness really doesn't adequately cover the actual nastiness of that abuse) in the eye and tell us that it was right for our tormentors to get off scot-free? Can you tell those who have been beaten, severely injured or raped - not me in this case, but several close friends - that because they weren't murdered it's all right for their attackers to just lose their Playstation privileges for a month?

In conclusion, I don't begrudge you your opinion, however repulsive and arrogant it strikes me. What I do take offence at, though, is your stubborn insistence that you are right, your bone-headed refusal to even consider anybody else's point of view, and your attempted moral outrage and "surprise" that nobody's agreeing with you.

You, Jennifer, have sided with bullies and criminals against their victims. You show no sign of understanding why that's raised some hackles, or even trying to see anybody's side of the story but your own.

At the very least, you owe many people here an apology, and maybe even an attempt to understand - not necessarily agree with, I think that might be pushing it at this point - our point of view.

Am I overreacting? Is she really right to think that one should never turn in family ("except for murder")?

The law has to be equal for everyone, or it doesn't work. At the moment it's not, and Jennifer is a shining example of why.

Re: An update

Date: 2011-04-21 10:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Five days later, and no further comments from this idiot. No apology. No reply to any points anyone's raised. So I made one more post on the subject - my last, unless something spectacular happens - and since I'm not sure if it'll get posted or not, here it is:

Perhaps this won't be approved. Perhaps it's a bit of a rehash of what I've said before. But, damn it, I am furious that Jennifer is refusing to even acknowledge how wrong and offensive she has been. Randy, whether you let this through or not, PLEASE take Jennifer to task. At very least, she owes every victim of crime and bullying an apology.

I am disappointed that Jennifer hasn't even made an attempt to address anyone's comments, just ranted about how nobody's agreeing with her and then thrown her toys out of the pram and trampled off in a huff.

Jennifer, you may be an adult in terms of age, but you're acting like a child. You have offended a number of people, you have trivialised the suffering that bullying (and, really, any crime "other than murder") causes, and you have said that the law does not apply to you.

You need to apologise. You need to show that you at least read and try to understand why you have encountered such a storm of disagreement.

Randy often says controversial things, he not unfrequently gets complaints. But where he gives the impression that he tries to see both sides of the story, you have been frankly insulting to a number of people who have voiced there disagreement. You have blindly ranted about your blinkered, irresponsible, dogmatic view with no regard for anyone but yourself.

Randy's opinions, whether I agree with them or not, always show a degree of maturity, intellect and thought. Yours has shown none of those.

You should not be writing for True until you can learn to accept debate, until you can learn when to apologise gracefully, until you learn some empathy.

You have resorted to ad hominem attacks. You have been an apologist for bullies, criminals, robbers, rapists and child abusers. You whine at length because not enough people are agreeing with your preposterous opinions, but you think it's all right to refer to (as far as we can tell) a good parent as a "ratt", a "pr*ck" (and by the way, if you're too squeamish to use the word, use one you think you can publish), and worse than those who would bodily harm a child.

You, Jennifer, have no morals, no maturity, and no integrity. If you can't grow up at your age, please resign from True and stop inflicting your self-righteous, law-flouting rubbish on the world.

Re: An update

Date: 2011-04-21 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yikes. Some really terrible typos there. Ah well...


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