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[personal profile] awmperry
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?
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