I try to avoid the news. Okay, not all the news -- just the news that talks about cannibals eating someone’s face off or something along those lines. I mean, dear Lord, is it really necessary to run a headline on that story and then put a warning about graphic photos? Does the world really need to see graphic photos of a man whose face was eaten off by a cannibal? I’m going to go out on a limb and say…no. I did, however, break my no-sensational-story rule when I saw the headline, “Texas dad beats 4-year-old daughter's alleged attacker to death” in the Los Angeles Times.
For the record, I rarely write things that might toe the line on controversial. I have enough to wear me out taking care of three rambunctious beasties children that I don’t need to be putting out that kind of energy in print. But…this story got me completely spun up in a million different ways. It also got me wondering: would people think this dad was guilty of murder or would they think it was justified? Side note, all of the people who don’t think things like this should be tried in the court of public opinion may want to stop reading now, because I’m about to get on that train. You can also Google the relevant search terms and a million stories will come up in various outlets.
The word “allegedly” is in these stories more times than Lindsay Lohan has been in a mug shot, which as you may have guessed, is a lot. But let’s just say for a moment that what is being reported is true and that this dad really did catch another man sexually abusing his four-year-old daughter. And let’s just say that the dad did then go all crazy batshit on this man and, as the sheriff said, “punched the man in the head until he died.” Again…allegedly.
From the article:
"In the course of trying to get her away from him, and protect her, he struck the subject several times in the head and the subject died," Harmon told KPRC. "There doesn't appear to be any reason other than what he told us."
Yes, let’s say all of that happened. Should the dad go to jail?
I am going to go out on a limb (for the second time in this post, I might add) and say no. I’m going to put it out there that if someone was doing anything of the sort to any of my kids, I would lose my mind. I can’t even imagine what I would be capable of in that moment. I literally…can’t…even…imagine. Any of it. And I never want to have to imagine it.
So no, I don’t condemn this dad. I don’t think it is a loss for society. If anything, it may have saved other children from future abuse. And no, I don’t condone people taking the law into their hands all of the time. But in this case, I get it.
I get it, because as a parent, I am my child’s keeper. I am their protector. I am their guide. I am their everything. At least for now. I have watched them take their first breath, heard them cry their first cry, and witnessed everything that has followed. I have held their tiny hands within my own in the quiet darkness of sleepless nights and sworn to safeguard them from the evils of this world. Perhaps you made that same promise to your own children. We make these promises, but how often do we really think we will have to make good on them in the most extreme sense? How often do we really think that evil in its purest form -- like sexual assault committed against a four-year-old child -- will actually come to our doorstep? My guess is that we don’t. It’s just too horrible to contemplate.
I can’t say for certain what I would do if ever I found myself in that dad’s shoes. I do know that I would do anything and everything to protect my children -- and then some. I do know that I would go to a place of crazy that I have never gone before. What is less clear to me is how I would ever pull myself back from the brink of it. I honestly just don’t know.
And what about you? If it had been you and if it had been your child, how do you think the story would have ended? What do you think you would have done?
Shannon Hembree is a stay-at-home mom for a kindergartner and twin toddlers. She is also the co-founder of Mamas Against Drama. You can follow her on Twitter @shannon1hembree and Mamas Against Drama @MamasAgnstDrama.
Photo Credit: RiverRatt3.
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