Josie Lou Ratley, Teen Violence, & Gender

Let me start by saying that Josie Lou Ratley sustained serious life-threatening injuries and I hope she makes a full recovery and leads as productive a life as possible. Let me also say that I hope Wayne Treacy gets the mental health counseling he desperately needs and makes something productive of his life.

Many people have expressed the opinion that physical assault is never warranted -regardless of the verbal provocation, a position with which I wholehearted disagree.  Ever hear the expression “them’s fightin’ words”?

From “A word that one uses to provoke a fight or hostility. Often used in the plural: “Fighting words are categorically excluded from the protection of the First Amendment … [because] their content embodies a particularly intolerable and socially unnecessary mode of expressing whatever idea the speaker wishes to convey” (Antonin Scalia).”  See also.

Hate speech is not protected speech. I don’t think anyone has the right to verbal attack anyone any more than they have the right to physically attack someone. If you respond to an angry person’s protest of “he or she said  or called me X” with “I don’t care what so-and-so said or called you…” then what do you expect that angry person to do, if not take matters into his or her own hands? You have made it clear you don’t care about his or her hurt feelings and that you aren’t going to do anything about the offense. What is the appropriate punishment for verbal violence?

Below are some excerpts from my exchanges on the Ratley case with others on various news sites:

I grew up in the New York City area and later taught in the South Bronx. Hearing about one teenager kicking in the head of another was not that unusual. If you dis(respect) the wrong person, you could get killed. Just the way it is in certain neighborhoods on this planet. And please don’t assume that another 15 year old girl is incapable of inflicting just as much damage on another – some make up for lack of physical strength with guns or knives. Maybe this is unusual in this particular school district.

My respondent wrote:

“Then maybe you should go back to the Bronx where you can continue to agree with beating on girls because that is “Just the way it is in certain neighborhoods on this planet”. That is not how it is in our neighborhoods. And if you’re a teacher I feel for the students being taught by someone who would make such a comment and basically agree with this sort or any sort of violence. I guess you’re just used to the ghetto mentality of the Bronx!
This child was waiting for the bus NOT looking to stab or shoot anyone.”

Then wrote” Because you’re just used to the ghetto mentality of the Bronx! Right?” about five times.

Violence may not be right, and I never said it was, but it is distressingly common, and not just in NYC. I don’t think it’s right to speak ill of the dead any more than it’s right to brutally attack someone who’s waiting for a bus, yet both of these things seem to be happening all the more frequently nowadays. He’s 15 yrs old. He should be in juvenile detention until age 18 and have therapy and anger management every day. If he does something like this AGAIN after all that – THEN I would say he needs to go away. We have to give him the chance to turn his life around. There’s no excuse not to do that much. Suppose one of YOUR children, nephews or nieces hurt another child badly? Would you want them to rot in jail forever or hope they would/could be rehabilitated?

It’s true that those of us who have witnessed or heard about violence on a nearly daily basis may not react with the same intensity of shock and horror when hearing about a case such as Ms. Ratley’s, but that doesn’t mean we want our kids to be the victims of violence, either.

He just lost his temper and self-control, which is not unusual for a teenaged boy. Unfortunately, he attacked someone physically weaker and probably less skilled than he. There’s no doubt that he committed the crime, but if you mouth off to the wrong person at the wrong time, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it might cost you.

As poster,yourmartdotnet on, wrote: “…If you poke a rabid dog with a sharp stick, I’m not going to feel too sorry for you when the dog bites.” I completely agree.

I don’t really think gender matters much in acts of extreme violence. Either sex can wield a weapon and inflict serious and sometimes fatal injuries. Does it really matter whether it’s a girl or a boy shooting you or stabbing you or beating you with a crowbar?  I think violence is violence and the relative size and strength of the victim and the perpetrator should be taken into account just as much as the gender.  A short boy of 5 feet 3 who weighs 110 pounds is no match for the tall husky girl who’s 5 feet 8 and 170 pounds, whether they happen to be the same age or not.

See these stories regarding some less than innocent girls:

There are several underlying and unspoken assumptions in this case, namely A)Wayne Treacy wouldn’t have beaten up a boy his own size or larger B) A girl wouldn’t have beaten up Josie Lou Ratley just as badly.  I think both assumptions are wrong. There is no reason to assume that Wayne couldn’t have chosen to attack another boy – his size or even larger with his fists/boots/or another weapon. If he were unable to best his opponent physically, there is no guarantee that he wouldn’t have resorted to a gun or a knife to harm his offender. B) There are plenty of girls capable of kicking and beating another girl into unconsciousness, and I’m sure there are plenty who are more physically powerful than Josie Ratley, and some are even more powerful than Mr. Treacy.

Another poster from CBSnews had sensible things to say about this case:

Smscline March 24, 2010 2:09 PM EDT –
But the point is, is that all these kid’s need to learn a lesson here. All these kids need to learn the definition of COMPASSION. Wayne needs to learn compassion for hurting others physically. The little 13 yr old girlfriend needs to learn what compassion is instead of standing by while Wayne beat up Josie. And I say this, but by no means did Josie deserve to be beaten at all, she also needs to learn what compassion is because she said something very hurtful to Wayne following the suicide of his beloved brother. I am not saying I’m on Wayne’s side or that his actions are right at all. But people need to understand that Wayne’s pain was very new & just because Josie didn’t approve of his relationship with the 13 yr old, what does making a disparaging comment about his dead brother got to do with anything? Wayne is a young, inexperienced boy. He is inexperienced in ways of death and loss, as I’m sure Josie is inexperienced in ways of what is cruel to say to someone that has just lost a loved one and so recently.
All were wrong here. No one deserves to be losing their lives over words that were hurtful. So many peoples lives are changed now. So maybe we, as parents, can teach our children compassion and show it more to each other too.

On, Ajajadude made the excellent point that had Mr. Treacy turned his pain and anger on himself instead of on Ms. Ratley, she would not elicit very much sympathy from the general public; a point which I think many who condemn Mr. Treacy should contemplate.

And what about the reality that one can’t hide behind a phone or a computer anymore? There are ways to track both and someone who’s angry and determined enough can track you down to exact revenge. That’s an unfortunate reality.

It wouldn’t hurt to teach all children:  a) be careful what you say b)think before you speak c)watch out for crazy people d) you never know for sure who’s crazy e) if you receive death threats via text or any other means – tell someone

Newser link to story & comments