“I’m Going To Kill My Kid:” Violent Threats Online Should Be Taken Seriously
Some conversations on social media are fleeting. Here today, forgotten tomorrow. Some stick with you forever. Others, forgotten for a while, can come back to haunt. This is the story of one of those conversations.
A frustrated mother, Twitter, and the police
Back in 2009, a mother frustrated by bedtime battles with her daughter vented on Twitter, setting off a series of events that eventually led to her writing a post warning people to watch what they say on Twitter because “big sister is watching.”
In her post, the author wrote that the people who know her, know the relationship that she has with her daughter — one that includes love, frustration, awe, annoyance, anger and bliss. She described the bedtime situation she was facing with her daughter, a frustrating game that is repeated each evening, and which ended with her venting on Twitter by asking if it was okay to smother her daughter. She explained that this was just part of her black humour and she was enraged that someone who hardly knows her at all had the gall to have the police sent to her house.
In the comments, it becomes apparent that the woman she was enraged at didn’t call the police after all. Instead, she (and numerous others) replied to the mother’s tweet and when they didn’t get a response, they reported it to Twitter. Eventually someone did call the police and they likely obtained information on the woman’s identity and whereabouts from her Internet Service Provider because the police showed up at her door and insisted on ensuring that her daughter (sleeping at that point) was okay.
Some commenters on the post were just as enraged as the author and thought it was ridiculous that anyone could take it seriously. Other commenters said that reporting it to the authorities was the right thing to do because no one would be able to live with themselves if the mother did in fact hurt her daughter.
In a follow-up post the next day, the author (still upset, but somewhat calmer than the previous night) said that she understood the concern. But she called on people to name cases of situations where parents published a tweet, Facebook status update, or blog post prior to abusing their child. Unfortunately, today, I found that case.
Australian father kills daughter after Facebook update
In the Ottawa Citizen this morning, I read about a case where an Australian father killed his daughter shortly after updating his Facebook status to “bout to kill ma kid.” An article in the Sydney Herald provides more details on the time line of events.
- The girl, Yazmina (almost 3 years old), lived with her mother, Rachelle D’Argent. D’Argent had been beaten by her ex-fiance Ramazan Acar (Yazmina’s father). She had an “intervention order” (sounds similar to a restraining order) against him. Acar had apparently never been violent towards his daughter.
- One day, D’Argent arrived home with Yazmina and saw her ex parked outside their flat. Yazmina was so excited to see her father, so D’Argent reluctantly agreed to let Yazmina go with Acar to get a chocolate at a nearby store. Acar promised to bring her straight back, saying “Do you trust me? I wouldn’t take her away from you like you took her from me.”
- Ten minutes later, when they didn’t return, D’Argent called Acar and asked where they were. He said they had stopped at McDonald’s and would be back soon.
- Around 7pm, D’Argent called again and Acar said “How does it feel to not have your child when I didn’t have mine for three months” and demanded that D’Argent have the intervention order removed (she refused).
- At 7:23pm, Acar updated his Facebook status to “Bout 2 kill ma kid” and then sent text messages to D’Argent saying “I loved you” and “It’s ova I did it.” At 7:34pm, he updated his Facebook status again to “pay bk u slut.”
- In less than an hour, D’Argent was with the police and called Acar again. He repeated that he was going to kill her and asked if she had any last words for the girl. Yazmina said “I love you” to her mother over the phone and D’Argent replied “I love you too.” Acar then hung up.
- At 8:47pm, Acar confessed over the phone. “I’ve killed her. She’s just lying there next to me.” He went on to explain that he didn’t care that he would have to go to jail because he did it to get back at her.
- At 11:20pm Acar updated his Facebook status again to “I love you mimi.” He was arrested by police 10 minutes later.
There were just over 80 minutes between the time Acar posted his initial Facebook status update and the death of his daughter. There was not enough time to wait for a reply back to an “are you okay?” or an “are you serious?” message. How many people saw his Facebook status update and assumed he was just kidding? I hope no one did, because that would be incredibly difficult for that person to bear.
Taking Threats Seriously
We all use social media to vent. Whether it is a full blog post, or a quick status update, it can be a way to let off steam. We need that outlet and people in general, and mothers specifically, are lucky that social media can sometimes help them to overcome isolation and give them a place to share their fears and frustrations with others. But, there is a line we all need to be conscious of. That line can be different for each person, but I believe there is a point of no return which no one should cross and that is one of threatening violence. Tone is not always evident when reading the typed word and especially in the fast paced world of social media where many of us are following people who we have never met in person, there is really no way to tell if someone is just joking around or if they are being serious.
So I need to draw a line in the sand and say that I will take you seriously. If you tweet, update your Facebook status, send an SMS or otherwise indicate that you plan to hurt yourself, your child, or someone else, I will take it seriously. I will act. I may send the police. It can save lives. It has saved lives. If there is any doubt in my mind whatsoever about your intentions, I will err on the side of caution. I will alert the authorities because being sworn at and called names is a lot better than the alternative.
Image: Annie Urban