Would You Choke A Teenager If He Bullied Your Daughter?

Am I the only one who feels bad for the mom who choked the teenage boy who bullied her daughter?

If you had seen comments about your daughter that said she “didn’t deserve to live because she is so nasty he wouldn’t even rape her,” what would you do? How would you react when you were confronted with the individual making these comments about your daughter?

Debbie Piscitella admits that she snapped. And quite honestly, I’m not sure if I’d be able to keep myself in check if I saw the individual who was tormenting my child to the point where I was worried she might take her life. I’d like to think that I’d be able to control my emotions and that even when he blew me off when I tried to confront him, I’d still be able to keep my cool. But, you really don’t know how you will handle a situation until the exact situation occurs and you are in the middle of it.

I have a younger sister. In fifth grade, she was bullied terribly. This was long before the days of Facebook and I can’t even imagine what her world would have been like if her tormenters had access to Facebook.  My sister would come home crying every single day. It was heartbreaking. My mom talked to teachers, the guidance counselor, and the principal. The principal finally called a meeting with the girls and my sister. The girls apologized and promised never to do it again. Then, promptly continued their relentless bullying. My sister was devastated and my parents felt completely powerless.

So, one morning I grabbed a friend of mine who was big and burly. We marched down from our junior high part of the school to the middle school section. I found my sister and grabbed her. Told her to show me who the girls were. I marched over to the girls and told them with a very colorful vocabulary to leave my sister alone. Then I grabbed the ring leader by the throat and lifted her up against the locker. I let her know very clearly that if she ever messed with my sister again I would be back.

The three little girls never bullied my sister again.

Granted, I was a teenager myself. And I don’t condone going around choking teenagers. But I do know what it is like to watch someone that you love dearly being treated so cruelty. I understand wanting to hurt back. However, I’m pretty sure that Piscitella wasn’t trying to hurt him as much as she was trying to get him to listen to her and to leave her daughter alone.

And now she’s being charged with child abuse.

What do you think? Child abuse?

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51 Responses to Would You Choke A Teenager If He Bullied Your Daughter?

  1. You are not alone – I also feel sorry for this mom. I don’t believe choking a teenager is the answer (and am not clear what is), but I relate to feeling powerless and wanting to protect my child. My daughter had a mean girl episode at school yesterday and I wanted to pull the little girl by the hair and yell in her face. Thankfully, I didn’t. I love how you stood up for your sister and will eagerly follow this story and your posts/comments on it. Thanks!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Mary. I’m pretty sure my sister appreciated it too! And I think this conversation could get interesting so you should stay tuned…

    • Catherine says:

      I can’t say it was abuse. I will say it was a mother reacting to her child’s pain! Children can be rude, very rude nowadays even when being confronted by an adult. They don’t respect anything or anyone. I can’t say I wouldn’t have reacted the same way. Bullying is dangerous, it kills! Thank God I had sons! I always advised them, do what you got to do. I would much rather you be at home with me for a two week suspension, than live a lifetime without you. Some will say that’s a bad philosophy and it may be, but my son’s are alive and well, grown and gone off into their own lives. They still have a life!

  2. Trinnie says:

    NOT child abuse. If she had wanted to hurt the boy she could have. The mother of the boy has no business pressing charges after the cruel, disgusting things her son said. He obviously knew he could get away with it because she is negligent in monitoring and disciplining him.

    • Meagan says:

      You’d better believe that if any person not only tried to choke my son, but LEFT MARKS ON HIS NECK I’d be pressing charges at the least. Whatever the reason. Plenty of parents these days (maybe even most) are clueless about what their kids are doing online, and that’s a problem, but calling it negligence is a stretch.

      • Mommy Psychologist says:

        Yes, by law, this is child abuse given that it was physical harm to a child which resulted in a mark being left.

        I think partly what disturbed me about this case as well as other bullying cases like this was the level of cruelty involved in the comments. To be able to even say something that cruel signals a greater problem within the child. Most kids wouldn’t even be able to make the inference about “being too ugly to rape.” I’d be more worried about the teenage boy inflicting serious damage on others that he may come into contact with than I would about the mother who put his hands on him.

        And to play the devil’s advocate here, if you knew your son/daughter was teetering on the edge of suicide would you do anything you could to stop it? Would you be willing to commit a “crime” if it meant stopping your child from being abused?

        • Meagan says:

          Of course I would. That’s not really the point. I think it’s counter productive to attack the other mother for pressing charges when her child had bruises (I guess?) on his throat. Anything else WOULD be neglectful on her part.

        • Sharon Moya says:

          It’s not a new thing. Ever heard of an Internet Troll? It’s someone who hides behind a computer and spouts vile garbage. This kid would never have said those things directly to her face. But if we, as parents, don’t teach our kids to deal with it, what are they going to do when they no longer live at home and someone says something vile to them online? It WILL happen. And why don’t the schools just send out notices to all the parents asking then to put security locks on social networking sites so the kids can’t get on there and do this immature BS? Unless someone physically assaults or intimidates my child (and that is what bullying REALLY is), I am going to teach them the same thing my parents taught me and every other kid in my generation, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. What happened to that one????

          • Mommy Psychologist says:

            It’s probably because its more than just words. The things that are exchanged on line are things that would never be said face to face. And the words of other kids have created a an increasing trend of teenagers taking their own lives because they feel so powerless. I think this is why this issue is so important because the statistics of teenagers committing suicide as a result of online bullying continues to climb. The numbers are staggering in regard to ten years ago. Personally, I’d rather have my bones broken by sticks and stones than have to endure some of the heinous emotional abuse that occurs.

  3. Meagan says:

    Well yes, it’s child abuse (or more accurately in my opinion, assault). It’s just that it’s UNDERSTANDABLE child abuse. As a society, we’ve decided we don’t get to go around assaulting people, even when it’s totally justified. Batman would have long since landed in prison (barring incompetence). It’s not about right or wrong, it’s just about law.

  4. Rach says:

    Unfortunately, because she is an adult and he (although a nasty piece of work) is a “child”, it’s technically child abuse.

    However, I get it. I absolutely understand where she is coming from. I’m afraid I would snap if my daughters’ tormentors were blowing me off and not listening. There is nothing more infuriating than feeling utterly powerless. I feel so sorry for the mom and the daughter and I pray every day that my girls won’t have to worry about that. But, Lil’s a kid who marches to her own drummer and it worries me a lot.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Check out my response to Meagan above. I would love to know your take….

      • Rach says:

        Oh, I absolutely would be willing to commit a crime if it meant saving my child. No question about it.

        I also agree with everything you wrote. I guess I was trying to say that in the eyes of the law, the girl’s mom is, in fact, guilty of child abuse. But, in my eyes, it is absolutely understandable.

        It’s such a horrible situation, and if it helps bring the impact of bullying to the spotlight again, good. There needs to be a bigger conversation about bullying and how we can prevent it/end it.

  5. Carolyn says:

    Hearing about this makes me feel sick…. just sick to my stomach!
    I have no idea how I would react in this situation (I was horribly bullied as a child/teen, but that’s another story). I’m with you, I feel for the girl’s mother.
    As for the boy and the boy’s mother…. I’d LOVE to find a way to nail BOTH of there asses for this kind of shit. I am FED UP with parents and children not taking responsibility for their (or their children’s actions). A lot of what children learn about respect, morals and responsibility starts at HOME!
    But that’s just my opinion…

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Me too. For everyone involved. I said above that the level of cruelty in his responses especially the ones about rape signal a huge red flag in regard to a much greater disturbance going on with the teenage boy.

  6. Ali says:

    Unfortunately, I “get” the mom. So many teen boys are such snots. Not all, but enough to where I start to wonder if they were raised by wolves or what. They are so rude and so full of themselves it’s stunning. Now that I’m raising a son, I can only hope I’m doing my job well enough that he knows better.

    That being said, the mom went over the top. She had enough to press charges for stalking and harassment….she could have pursued matters differently. I wonder what the fall out has been for her daughter.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I agree that the greater issue is that the mom whose daughter suffered the bullying has no recourse. The boy’s bruises will fade, but the comments made by that boy will last a lifetime in the mind and soul of that young girl.
    The law simply hasn’t caught up with technology; we need to push for greater legislation so that these bullies face real consequences and parents aren’t left feeling completely powerless and desperate.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      It’s true. If comments like this were made in a face to face situation, the individual can be charged with simple assault. However, the same laws don’t seem to apply in an online context which doesn’t make any sense to me.

      • Shelly G says:

        Police are less inclined to get involved in anything involving kids of a young age – it’s seen as a sort of school boy hitting school girl on the playground because he has a crush thing. That being said, unless people directly indicate violence towards the victim, they are still technically protected under freedom of speech.

  8. T. says:

    When I was in High School, I was bullied. Badly, during school hours. Bullied like “they threw things at me to hit me”.
    When the teachers discovered it (by accident) they called the principal.
    The principal called the boys and girls who were doing it and explained them, one by one, that if he as much as heard something like that again, they would be expelled.
    The bullying stopped.

    I would like to add that it was a private school and it was something like 4, 5 people bullying me. Expelling those persons would mean 5 people who paid less. But my principal though it was better to teach manner than to have money.
    On a side note, he was awesome.

    That said: I agree with the mother here. No, it is not ok to bully somebody. If your special lil’boy has grown up to be a, pardon my words, nasty piece of shit, you should accept it and move on. Peraphs move to therapy for the kid.
    What has the boy learnt from this? That nobody can touch him even if he is patently wrong, because mama will always protect him. Even when he is wrong wrong wrong.

    Also, this boy is no child. Sorry, 14 years old? No child. Whenever we define childhood, 14 is not it. Adolescent maybe. We aren’t talking about a 5, 6, 7 or 8 years old. At 14, though you are still obviously immature, you aren’t unable to understand the concept of bullying.

    If, instead, he has some moral background (which the article above hinted might be the case) what would he be feeling? Guilty probably. I would not have wanted to put somebody else in prison for something I am aware is my fault.

    Guilt can be a crippling thing.
    Let’s say the woman is convincted and the boy understand (now or later in life) what has happen. I would be devasted.
    Even if she isn’t convicted, it is money and time she will have to spend. And again, I would feel guilty.

    So my two cents in the end:

    1. No bullying, ever.
    2. 14 years old is no child. The concept of “never touching a child” is wonderful with… children. Teenagers are another matter entirely. I do not condone assault in any form, but I condone self defence. If I see a teenager attack somebody, I defend that person. And I think that being accoused of Child Abuse because the teen was 17 years and 364 days old is foolish.
    3. Mother of the boy needs to accept the truth about her son. Namely: your son has behaved in a terrible manner. Accept it. Seek therapy.

    Well, it is 3 cents :P

  9. Meagan says:

    I am actually VERY disturbed that we are talking about a 46 year old woman choking a 14 year old boy, and the most common comment is somewhere on the lines of: “he had it coming.” In no real world interaction is it ok to to *choke* someone, child or adult, in response to something they’ve said. Yes, he was saying disgusting, cruel things, yes, words have power and can do serious harm, but they are still words, whereas choking is a violent act. In fact, unlike punching, choking goes beyond a simple act of angry violence. The boy had BRUISES ON HIS NECK. For a split second, before she came to her senses, it was attempted homicide. If she had been holding a gun, that boy would be dead.

    And here’s a counter to your counter. You asked: “Would you be willing to commit a “crime” if it meant stopping your child from being abused?” The act you’re asking about is murder. That’s what STOPS the abuse in this case. But it’s an invalid question anyway, because the woman’s actions were (fortunately) not a thought out strategy for ending abuse, she “snapped.” You talk about the fact that the boy is sick and needs therapy, but how about a woman who has so little impulse control that she’ll try to choke a 14 year old?

    I think we can all agree that her actions are understandable, but I think we may be giving a little too much sympathy to the “mama bear” instinct. It’s not ok to assault people, it’s just not. Maybe this kid did “need” or “deserve” a schoolyard beating at the hands of his peers, but that is a real world consequence. A 46 year old approaching you out of the blue and choking you until you have bruises is NOT. Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we want, sometimes we’ve tried everything else and it hasn’t worked. That doesn’t mean we should sit passively and take it, but it also doesn’t mean we are entitled to “end” the problem by ending the tormenter.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I hope that the mother does seek therapy because you’re absolutely correct. She clearly lacks impulse control. Most of us even though we would want to choke the teenage boy (which I think almost everyone has indicated) would be able to stop ourselves from doing so. I also don’t think she was trying to kill the boy. She admits her wrongdoing and that she put one hand on his neck. The video of the event isn’t being released so we can’t really know what happened. Unfortunately, like most abuse cases it becomes a “he said-she said.”

  10. Barnmaven says:

    What a terrible situation. I’m sure she will get some lenience from the judge, or at least I hope she will. As a mother, my instincts are ot protect my children from any perceived threat. A teenager, especially one that so callously drops words like “rape,” is not a child. I would find such language threatening. However, we don’t just get to attack people when we are angry. If someone physically attacked me, violence would be acceptable.

    Bullying isn’t OK. We can’t, however, guarantee that our kids will live in a world where no one will ever be mean to them. I think its perfectly OK to meet violence with physical resistance, but when the attacks are verbal, we need to give our kids the emotional resources to disempower their bullies. Bullying is only successful when it creates a victim. Is there a way to teach our kids not to be victims? I realize that kids don’t have the advantage of time and maturityl that adults have, but people who say and do mean things are looking for a reaction. When they don’t get one, or when the reaction is one that makes it clear that their victim isn’t in the least bit upset or afraid of them, their power disappears. I realize this is easier said than done, but the dynamic we’ve created around bullying is one that doesn’t help kids adjust to a real world where being protected from every bad thing just isn’t feasible.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      I think the casual rape reference was the part I found the most disturbing about the teenage boy involved.

      Here is the other thing about the online bullying. If my child was being bullied on Facebook, I would take down their page. I’m sure at first glance this would appear like a punishment of sorts to them, but I would explain that it was for their protection. If it’s occurring it’s unnecessary to continually subject the child to seeing it. Blocking doesn’t work because there are ways to get around it. I’d say good-bye to Facebook for awhile and I’m willing to bet as you said that if there wasn’t any reaction the bully would move on to the next victim. You can’t bully someone online if they don’t have an online presence.

  11. Keith says:

    It’s easy to understand the impulse to choke the boy who insolently refuses to stop tormenting your daughter. I know I would have that impulse. However, a civilized society must not allow people to follow through on such impulses. The lawsuit is justified.

    Where the “civilized society” falls short, though, is in defending the tormented girl and in punishing the tormenter. The girl’s parents went to the school’s resource office and the police, and found no recourse there. This is simply unacceptable. After going through that process and finding no support within the system, it becomes more understandable that the mother would briefly allow herself to give in to her violent impulse. If society is condoning the tormenting of her daughter, it becomes that much harder to justify abiding by society’s rules about suppressing certain impulses.

    The mother deserves a mild punishment, but the real crime here is the failure of the authorities (including our legislature) to take on responsibility for this situation before it escalated.

  12. Mommy Psychologist says:

    Thanks, Keith. Most of us have indicated wanting to choke the teenager, but wanting to do something and following through are two entirely different things.

    I said above that we have laws in place that protect conduct in the real time world. For example, even if you make a threat about rape or hurting another person you can be charged with a crime similar to what you would be charged with if you had committed the actual crime. However, these same rules don’t apply in the online environment. In this world, you’re able to say whatever you feel like without any consequences for your actions. Unless you make threats against the president.

    • Meagan says:

      Threatening speach is not protected, I believe you can be charged with assault? But I’m fairly certain that the degree of punishment for a threat is in no way similar to the penalty for rape. I may be mistaken. I’m also unsure why you believe online threats aren’t against the law. An online threat is absolutely just as illegal as a person to person threat, and more importantly, easier to prove.

      Nevertheless, the boy in question did NOT make threatening speach. “Too ugly to rape” is disgusting, but it’s not a threat, and it’s not illegal, online or in real life.

      • Mommy Psychologist says:

        I was referring to Keith’s comments about the struggles that parents have in these situations in relation to the school system. I should have been clearer. For example, if a child had said these things to another child’s face in the hallway at school or posted pictures of her around the school with the grotesque remarks, the school would have stepped into intervene. However, when it comes to the same behavior online, the same level of intervention does not occur.

        I have to disagree with you in regard to the boys comments being non-threatening. If I were to see or hear the comments that he made I would be very threatened. In addition, if someone was making casual references regarding rape about my daughter I would feel very threatened by this behavior even if he did not directly say- “I’m going to rape you.”

        And yes, technically online threats are illegal. However, the other part that has to be proven is intent to harm. That is the other clause. And one that allows individuals who engage in this behavior to get away with it.

        • Meagan says:

          But it doesn’t matter if you FEEL threatened. Threat is a very specific exception to free speech and it requires a direct threat of action, not just a negative and scary word. And my point about online speech is that as far as I know legally it’s no different from any other kind of speech… The intent to threaten needs to be proven in either case. I get what you’re saying about a school being more likely to act if it happens in real life than online, but that is not legal action.

  13. Shelly G says:

    The first step I would have taken would be printing out the comments, deleting them, blocking the boy from my daughters Facebook profile, then taking the printed out sheets to the boys parents. At the very least, it would prevent more comments from being made on her Facebook profile. If it escalated to in person, I would try to involve authorities. If that failed, I would tell my daughter the same thing my father told me when I was getting bullied by an older boy “we’ve tried all this and this is what happened. Since he’s not stopping and it’s a danger to you, just poke him in the eyes. Just do it once and don’t ever do it again unless you’re in immediate danger.” So the next day, I got suspended for violence on the schoolground, my father told me he was proud of me for standing up for myself, and no one ever bullied me again.

    • Shelly G says:

      Sorry, got distracted feeding a baby and lost my train of thought. I’m not sure if assault is a bigger charge, but that’s what this is. They might be letting her off easier with child abuse. What I don’t understand is why this woman thought confronting the boy (a teenager who obviously lacks respect and thinks he’s badass) would not end negatively. It might work for my husband, who’s 6’5 and resembles a human colored Hulk, not to mention being the most patient person I’ve ever met. But for me… I know confrontation with someone who would simply be snarky, disrespectful, or downright rude to me (the stereotype of a teenage boy) would only get my blood pressure up and not help my daughter at all. I can see “snapping” in that situation, the easiest way to avoid it is to not put yourself in that situation.

  14. Mommy Psychologist says:

    I have to agree with you, Shelly. I wouldn’t put myself into the situation to test whether or not I’d be able to keep my cool. I have a hard time not saying things back to the older kids that are mean to my boy at the park! I have to bite my tongue on a regular basis and these comments are just your average kid comments.

    P.S. I love that you poked him in the eyes. Sometimes, when you’ve done all you can do…

    • Shelly G says:

      Sometimes the only way to end bullying is for the victim to fight back. For the record, that was 21 years ago, and I never poked anyone in the eyes again.

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  16. Heather Johnson says:

    You know what. I am so sick of how tolerant people are towards bullies. They terrorize people, because they get away with it. There is minimal consequence to bullying if any at all. Where is the incentive for a bully to stop? They clearly have fun at another person’s expense. Personally, when I was a teenager, yes I was called mean, but I also stood up for people, and sometimes with violent results. I hated how tough bullies thought they were and liked taking them down a rung or two. Sometimes people DO have to learn the hard way. Soft and easy doesn’t always work. If that were so the world would be full of healthy well adjusted individuals.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Hi Heather! Good to “see” you here. And you are absolutely right about the lack of consequences.

  17. zoe says:

    Im frm uk, and the schools here are no better dealing with bullying/ cyber bullying. It gets swept under the carpet as if it doesnt exsist. Never mind how the bullied child feels. I went thru proper channels and have had to pull daughter out of school because of it. Seeing the bully makes my blood boil so can completely understand if the mother just flipped as an automatic reaction ….auto drve if u may, without thinking. The bully and parents are out of order and should have dealt with this in the first place!

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  19. Sarah says:

    Actually this boy did commit a crime. It’s called terroristic threatening and it is a felony or misdemeanor depending on the situation. The mother would have been much better off calling the police and providing evidence of the threats than choking him. He would be the suffering the consequences not her. Here is government website with more information.

    http://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/schools/laws/11delc621.htm

    • Meagan says:

      I’m struggling to understand which of those statutes the boy broke. “Too ugly to rape” is a disgusting thing to say, but merely speaking the word “rape” does not make a statement a threat… even if you feel threatened. “I will rape you,” is a threat, and even “I would rape her” might be condidered a threat, but “too ugly to rape,” does not threaten action of any kind.

      • Sarah says:

        “This boy may have committed a crime” would probably have been a better phrase on my part. If they have other statements, in addition to this one, saying or implying he would hurt her, it could be considered a crime depending on what he said, the context in which he said it, and frequency of the occurances. If any of the statements occured at school, school-related functions, or if the bullying created a hostile environment at school but happened outside of school, the school would be required to respond when the parent files a complaint-a response that may include police, depending on the complaint, school system policies, and state laws. Many states have bullying-in-school laws on the books now, laws that include sexual bullying and sexual harrassment. If the school, doesn’t respond to bullying complaints, including sexual bullying, or sexual harrassment complaints with assertive action, schools know they can be sued (particularly with sexual harrassment since it falls under Title IX.) Also, if evidence suggests he learned his hostile, sexual bullying behavior at home, child services may be called in to examine his situation. Hopefully, just reporting him to the police or school officials would make he and his parents sit up and take notice. If anyone has questions about your state, check your state’s .gov website. Some states actually put their laws on the Internet or address it on their department of education website . Your local school system should have their policies available on the Internet or at the school board’s office. If your child is being bullied, you have more options than you did a few years ago. I hope this post is helpful to someone.

  20. Sarah says:

    You can also Google “terroristic threatening” for more information from other states and law offices.

  21. Betty Robitaille says:

    The mother of the boy that was “choked” saw an opportunity to sue (the American way is hurry up and sue someone to get your fortune). The woman that put her hands on the boy was wrong as that is against the law but why didn’t the boys mother know her child was being cruel and hateful – what is wrong in his home life to make him act this way. Perhaps his home life is not free from bullying and hateful comments. Many things make up our character from birth on up and the greatest influence is in the home.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Betty. I agree about home being the greatest influence.

    • Meagan says:

      Where did you read that she was planning to sue? Every article I say said she planned to press charges (that would be criminal charges) after seeing the bruises left on his neck. I didn’t read anything about a lawsuit, and I can’t imagine that it would be especially lucrative unless the woman who choked him is rich. Frivolous law suits are generally against large corporations or in situations where insurance kicks in (such as a car accident). A lawsuit against an indivual might seem like a great idea to some greedy “victim” but it doesn’t matter, because no lawyer is going to take on a case against a defendant without deep pockets. Does homeowners insurance cover assault at the mall? I wouldn’t think so? And what other kind of insurance would she carry that could apply?

  22. Mama Bear says:

    I hadn’t read this before, but it is really interesting. We are thinking of moving to a city and this is one of my fears. I have taught my kids to respond to deliberate rudeness with humor. I can think of a few cutting responses to the boy’s remark. Do you think that humor is an effective response to bullies?
    I agree with Meagan. And while fourteen year-old boys can be as big as adults, mentally they are quite immature. I might have been tempted to threaten him privately though, not the best response either.

  23. Ken Scalf says:

    I’m 72 and have 3 daughers, the youngest being 44. I was also bullied in elementary school by more than one individual and at different times. If I should encounter a situation that clearly, and without any doubt indicates that a young person is being bullied I am going to jail..guaranteed. The bully is going to the hospital…also guaranteed …but only after the paramedics scrape his or her miserable butt off the concrete, floor, sidewalk, street, whatever….Gandhi and Dr. King were absolutely correct…up to a point. Nuf Sed.

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