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April 15, 2011

Violent Crime and Bullying

There's an issue in the news, currently, about a father who was videotaped cheering his teenage son on in a fight the son was having with another teen over a girl:

The father was arrested for crimes associated with child abuse. But he excuses this behavior by telling us that his son was responding to long term bullying by the other boy, and his attorney defends him by saying, "He [the father] never touched the kid. ... He's telling his kid to stand up against the bully. What is wrong with that?"

Struthers [the father] said Thursday the video leaves out what led up to the fight. He called it six months of "bullying" by the other boy in a dispute over a girl.

Struthers said the video doesn't reflect that for the whole six months, he and his wife, Kimberly Anne, told their teenager: "Son, you're not going to fight."

And Philip Struthers said the portion of the video posted on the Internet also leaves out something that happened just after the fists stopped flying: the fighters shook hands.

"The boys shook hands, all of them - not just the two," Struthers said, referring to a crowd that gathered at the weekend fight in his northwest Hillsborough County neighborhood.

Philip and Kimberly Struthers spoke Thursday in the Largo law offices of their attorney, John Trevena, who said his client did not commit any crimes.

"Does a father really have to apologize for asking his son to stand up to a bully?" Trevena asked.

"He never touched the kid. ... He's telling his kid to stand up against the bully," Trevena said. "What is wrong with that?"

Well, there is a whole hell of a lot wrong with that. The issue here isn't one of merely staving off rude words or overly assertive behavior on the part of the bully, it's an issue of assault and battery - that is: violent crime. This, of course, makes it a police matter, and not merely a matter of standing up for one's self in the presence of people who are against us but otherwise acting legally.

The attorney makes a point of noting that the father never touched the other kid. Well, when your kid is a victim of violent crime - and not past tense, but the crime is actually happening - it's not the kid's role, solely, to handle the situation. It's also the role of the police to handle the situation. It's the role of any good Samaritan witnesses to also step in and help handle the situation. And it is most certainly the role of the parents of the kid to step in and defend the kid. In sum, violent crime is not the type of situation where we should invoke "tough love" and tell our fellow human beings to learn to solve their own problems.

The problem with the father is that through his actions and attitude, he's making a social and political statement, one that is (and should be) contrary to our law: he's saying that fighting (including [or, perhaps, especially?] over girl!) is not a crime, much less a violent crime, and not a situation in which the police, bystanders, and parents should get involved. He and those other bystanders stood around and cheering were treating this violent crime as if it was some kind of harmless competition, like a basketball game, and as if it is a legitimate and appropriate way for boys to solve their problems and establish their pecking order. He is tacitly saying that, in the context of male status, physical "might" should make right.

Frankly, I hope this guy gets prison time.

Posted by Jeff at April 15, 2011 12:34 PM

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