Missouri mom Shelby Dasher, 20, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 13 month old son Tyler Dasher. Dasher originally claimed her son had been abducted, telling police he was missing when she woke up in the morning. People walking their dog found his body later that day near a cemetery around a mile from their home. Dasher was arrested and later confessed that she beat him repeatedly because he wouldn’t stop crying, wouldn’t lay down and wouldn’t go back to sleep.
Reaction to the murder has been mixed. On the one hand, there are people like St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch saying that “it’s a pretty sick person.” In Facebook groups and other online forums, people are already making comparisons between Shelby Dasher and Casey Anthony, who was recently acquitted of murdering her two-year old daughter. On the other hand, people close to Dasher have been expressing disbelief and shock. The police have noted that there were no signs of past abuse. People close to Dasher have said that she was a loving, dedicated mother. On YouTube, one friend said that “she never put herself over Tyler … anyone who knows Shelby knows that Tyler was her first priority” and on twitter another friend expressed that “she would never do a thing like this, especially to her own child.”
No one knows what was going on in Shelby Dasher’s head when she beat Tyler to death. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch noted that Dasher was charged with second degree murder instead of first degree murder because of the lack of deliberation, i.e. “the difference between hot-blooded and cold-blooded murder.” McCulloch went on to explain that “raising a child can be frustrating. There are a myriad of ways to deal with that. This isn’t one of them” (source: ABC News).
McCulloch is right. Unfortunately, not all parents have the tools to be able to find other ways of dealing with the frustration in the heat of the moment. Feeling helpless as your baby cries and cries is what often leads to Shaken Baby Syndrome. This can be exacerbated if the mother is suffering from postpartum depression or if the parent or caregiver is overtired or stressed. People who are otherwise good parents can simply become overwhelmed, which can have fatal consequences if they don’t know how to handle it.
The PURPLE Crying campaign was created in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths that result from shaken baby syndrome or other acts of violence towards babies out of parental or caregiver frustration. The PURPLE campaign is trying to teach people that it is sometimes normal for babies to cry a lot.
While it is worth looking for any medical reasons for the crying, parents do need to understand that it isn’t their fault that the baby is crying and they need to learn to cope with the crying and not get so frustrated that they end up hurting the baby. Parents need to find ways to get the help and support that they need and understand that it is better to put the baby down and walk away briefly to calm down and compose yourself, than it is to hurt the baby.
Parents who hurt their children are not simply horribly people. They are often overwhelmed and lacking the tools to cope. Campaigns like PURPLE Crying are trying to give parents the tools to get through those frustrating situations so that their babies don’t end up like Tyler Dasher.
Photo credit: storyvillegirl on flickr