My husband is often amazed that I, the same person who is embarrassed to return a defective sweater, have no trouble morphing into a mother lion when it comes to protecting my child. It's true. I am positive that, under extreme circumstances, I could, and would, kill for my child. I suspect many mothers share this belief.
But what are extreme circumstances? Meet three mothers who killed for their daughters, under very different circumstances and for very different reasons:
Ms. Ball Ground. Ball Ground, GA. November 2006: A woman (whose name was withheld because she was a victim of sexual assault) was raped and beaten by a former acquaintance while her six year old daughter was locked in a closet in the same room where the mother was sexually assaulted. When he told the mom he planned to move onto the daughter, she managed to get to her kitchen and grab a knife. Despite being scalded with hot water and stabbed several times by the rapist during the fight that ensued, the mother managed to kill her attacker. Not a single hair was harmed on her daughter's head. The mom was taken to the hospital in serious condition, recovered.
Mari Carmen Garcia, Benejuzar, Spain. June 2005. Seven years after her 13 year old daughter was raped at knifepoint on her way to buy a loaf of bread, Spanish mother Mari Carmen Garcia encountered her 13 year old daughter's assailant while he was out on a three-day pass from prison. "How's your daughter?" he taunted before heading in to a local bar.
A short time later, Ms. Garcia walked into bar and, without saying a word, poured a bottle of gasoline on the convicted rapist and set him on fire; he died 11 days later. While she was initially sentenced to 9 ½ years I prison, the vigilante mom was pardoned this year after a petition with over 5000 signatures was submitted to authorities. She served a total of 1 year and 10 days in prison.
Laquita Calhoun, Chigaco, Illinois. Febuary 2004. After noticing signs of sexual abuse on her one year old daughter, Laquita Calhoun confronted her neighbor, Alonzo Jones, who according to police documents and witnesses, "arrogantly admitting assaulting the one year old." In addition, another neighbor told 23 year old Calhoun that she strongly suspected he had sexually abused one of her children as well.
After being beaten by several men, Ms. Calhoun and several friends loaded the offender into the back of her car. Ms. Calhoun then proceeded to slash him with a beer bottle, beat him with a stick, and run over him several times with her car. Convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 67 years in prison, a September 24, 2010 appeals court has recommended that her sentence be drastically reduced because the sentence failed to take into account the "undeniably egregious nature of the provocation" that led to the 2004 killing.
Protecting our Children: How Far Should We Go?
I can't imagine a mother who, after reading Ms. Ball Ground's story, wouldn't personally like to hand her a medal. She's shown all of us that saving our child is an extremely powerful motivator, that it's possible to beat attackers who surprise you, are armed and more vicious than you, and rape, beat and scald you with hot water. She's shown us that gender is not a factor in the ability to protect and that a motivated woman can defend her child against enormous odds?
But what about Ms.'s Garcia and Calhoun? Were they justified in taking the law into their own hands to punish a perpetrator or save other children from possible abuse? The forensic psychologist in me says no; we can't live in a world where individuals are free to deliver their own retribution. We have to trust the justice system to this job for us. And, from a practical perspective, consider the consequences. Both women wound up in prison and away from the child that needed them.
As a mother, though, well, that's a different story. I can't condone what they did but I understand it. I can't say for sure what I'd do in those circumstances. And, truth be known, I derive quite a bit of comfort from the knowledge that there may be bad guys out there who hear about Ms. Ball Ground or Ms. Calhoun or Ms. Garcia and think twice before harming an innocent child.