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Live And Let Live?

May 24, 2012

My first job out of college was in a remote camp for serious and habitual offenders. Most of the inmates were gang members from Philadelphia. I’m presently working on a book about those days. What an adventure that was! Anyway, my career actually began with delinquents. When I left there I ended up for a time managing a district office for delinquency services, including in-take, probation and parole. I had my first experience with child abuse there.

A fourteen year old kid from a small town near by was arrested for murder. The police, state attorney, a school official, and my counterpart in that jurisdiction met to decide how to proceed. The boy could have been handled as a delinquent in deference to his age or prosecuted as an adult because of the seriousness of the crime. What actually happened was amazing.

The boy was obviously guilty. There was no argument at all on that issue. He had taken a deer rifle and shot his father at close range. I was told later that as the father lay dying, he asked the boy to come to him. The boy did just that, sliding to the floor by his father’s side. The two hugged each other and expressed their love for one another. In essence the father said goodbye to his son without even asking why.

Why, indeed. Why would a boy shoot down a father he loved? The truth of the matter is that most of the people in the small town knew exactly what the answer to that question was. The father had been abusive to the boy’s mother for years. When the young fellow got old enough and tried to intervene, he got his share too. Both mother and child had walked among the good citizens of the town and by and large the entire community had seen the marks and bruises of abuse on their faces. The mother had received medical treatment numerous times for “accidents” in the home. It was common knowledge there. Yet, nothing was ever done to stop it. So, one evening when the man starting hitting his wife again. The young boy took matters into his own hands and did what he could to end it.

In summary, nothing was done. Nothing at all. The shooting was deemed justifyable homicide, a boy trying desperately to protect his own mother. The boy and their mother received counseling, but who knows what the long term effect of the abuse and its sudden end might have been.

This happened in the 1970’s. It was not uncommon in those days for folks to mind their own business, to live and let live. But as a reminder, if you happen to hear unusual cries or see the marks of abuse on a child, don’t assume someone else may intervene. There are hot-lines for child abuse reports in every state. Calls can be made anonymously. We really should not let victims of abuse stand alone!


From → Child Abuse

  1. I wonder if this could happen today… not officially prosecuting in a situation like this. I’d like to think it could still happen, but in todays CYA society, probably not.

    • I think you are right. This occured in a small town in a rural county. The town was the county seat so all the players seemed to know about the proir abuse and they were caring enough to do the right thing for the boy.

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