A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


December 17, 2013

The Disease Destroying America's Soul: Affluenza

     If you haven't already been disgusted by this preposterous case, let me make your day.  Here are the facts, presented in a well-written article on RawStory.com:  16-year-old Ethan Couch of Fort Wort, TX, along with a group of friends, stole alcohol from a nearby Walmart.  They quickly left the scene of their crime in a pickup owned by Cleburne Sheet Metal, Ethan's father’s company. Couch had seven passengers in his truck and a blood-alcohol content of 0.24 (three times the legal limit in Texas), along with valium in his system.
     You can imagine the outcome of this scenario... the crime spree resulted in the deaths of four pedestrians, and two of Ethan's passengers were severely injured, including Sergio Molina, who suffered brain damage that has left him with blinking as his only form of communication.
     What you cannot imagine is the sentence Ethan received, nor the line of defense that was presented by his counsel.  Juvenile court Judge Jean Boyd sentenced the young man to 10 years probation, despite the fact that Couch has never denied that he was driving drunk that night, nor that he killed those people.  Helped by the defense's argument that Couch grew up in a family that was dysfunctional, in part because of its wealth, Judge Boyd ordered Couch to a long-term, in-patient facility for therapy, rather than sentencing him to incarceration.  It's not that I am surprised that Ethan received therapy instead of jail -- quite the norm in our screwed up justice system -- it's the reasons that he dodged jail time that are so disturbing.
     During the court trial, a star witness on Ethan's behalf was G. Dick Miller, a psychologist.  As a defense for Ethan's behavior, Miller diagnosed Couch as suffering from “affluenza”, a psychiatric condition where his parents’ wealth fixed problems in their lives.  Miller explained it this way:  The teen never had to learn to say that he was sorry if he hurt someone. If he hurt someone, his family just sent them money.  He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way. He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.  According to Miller, Couch was left to raise himself in a consequence-free environment. Miller advocated for Couch to receive therapy and cease contact with his parents.
     But here's the real sickening aspect of this story:  The prosecutors had asked for Couch to receive 20 years in prison.  But when the Judge ordered in-patient therapy, she was of the opinion that programs available in the Texas juvenile justice system might not give Ethan the same level of care that he would receive in the Southern California center that his parents offered to pay for; a facility that costs $450,000/year.
     Now, as Raw Story explains it, Ethan Couch will spend no time behind bars for killing four people and paralyzing another, despite admitting guilt, and despite the fact that the diagnosis the defense centered their case around – that of “affluenza” – is not even recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as an actual mental illness! On top of it, it appears that the judge found therapy and probation to be valid because his parents could pay for an expensive center, and that he would not have to rely on the state programs.  In summary, Couch got off because he comes from a wealthy family.
     So, exactly how is Ethan Couch learning from his deadly mistake?  Isn't Judge Boyd, in essence, reinforcing the dysfunctional message he has received all of his life .... that his family's money can make any problem go away?  Here is another irony:  Couch and his crime match the majority of offenders in juvenile justice facilities in Texas.  There is nothing different about him, except he is wealthy and white.  The sad truth of this case is that Ethan's wealth has bought his way out of prison, and into a facility that might very well be able to help him.  But what about all the other kids who make similar mistakes, and aren't a member of the wealthy Elite?  Wouldn't society benefit if they could receive the same kind of care? This story is just a microcosm of what awaits our society as our failing economy separates us into the "haves" and the "have nots".

1 Timothy 6:9     "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."


2 comments:

  1. Affluenza...where to start?

    Hey parents, I'm sure most of your kids have their own cell phones. Something utterly unheard of when I was a kid, but I completely understand the need to be able to coordinate busy schedules and make sure your kids are can call for help if needed. I get it.

    But do you want to see a short, sharp lesson impact your kids? Just call your cell provider and have them turn off your kids' data plan and/or their texting service. It just takes a quick call from the account holder. You can do if for a day, you can do it for a week, you can do it...for as long as it takes to get their attention. Your provider can turn the service back on just as fast as they turned it off - it's all just a setting they select for your account profile.

    Rooms not cleaned up like you asked? No YouTube or texting for a day. Backtalk their mother? No data plan for a week. This will let you bring home how privileged they are, and how quickly you can impact their immediate social lives without taking away things like actual conversations or the ability to call home.

    Now take the lesson one step further: remind them when they can't text or access InstaGram, that you're not the only one who has the power to turn that off. The NSA could do it. The FBI could do it. And we likely wouldn't even be allowed to read the warrant because it would be classified.

    Show your kids that having everything at their fingertips isn't guaranteed. Show them that you expect decent behavior. And show them that SOMEBODY is willing to say, "No" to them sometime. Clearly, Ethan Couch never had anybody tell him no or inconvenience his life...and it barely looks like our judicial process is willing to even do it no.

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    1. Well said! And a great idea to limit the data plan. We must equip our kids to deal with adverse conditions; and believe me, there are more negative and unfavorable circumstances coming their way than no texting for a day! Decent behavior ... Saying "No" .... Doing without .... what novel ideas! Thanks for the reminder to get back to basics!

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