How Far Would You Go to Protect Your Child?

by Shannon Hembree on June 14, 2012

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.

How Far Would You Go to Protect Your Child?

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.” 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 lawyers 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. And just so we are all on the same page, here is a link to a story the Los Angeles Times ran. 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.

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 have held their tiny hands within my own...

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?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Solon June 14, 2012 at 7:41 am

You’re a kinder, gentler person than I am because if the same set of circumstances happened to one of my children, they would not be able to identify the man who did it from dental records.


Shannon June 14, 2012 at 7:45 am

That is the same thing I thought when I read that the dad said he felt remorse after killing the man. It’s horrible to say, but I’m not sure I would feel regret…


When I Blink June 14, 2012 at 7:46 am

Well said, Shannon. Not sure what the legal answer is to all this, but I agree with you — it’s hard to expect a parent to go anything other than violently insane at that moment. Like you said, the harder thing to imagine is how ever to come back from the rage.


Shannon June 14, 2012 at 8:00 am

Not sure what the legal answer is either. The last I read, the sheriff said he didn’t anticipate arresting the dad and that a grand jury would decide if any charges should be brought.


BrookeB June 14, 2012 at 10:41 am

I’m with the dad — how could you not lose your mind and do everything possible in the moment to save your child? It would be a different set of circumstances if he had found out about after the fact and the plotted some kind of attack on the guy. But in the moment, the law protects your right to defend your child. He flat out said he was just hitting him, not thinking he would die.
As for feeling remorse, I have a feeling that, if you’re a good and moral person, that even though you killed a scumbag of a human, you realize you still killed a human — and that’s got to be a difficult thing to come to terms with. I don’t think you’d just brush it off without wishing circumstances could have been different.
Great post, Shannon!


Shannon June 14, 2012 at 11:23 am

Thanks, Brooke!


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