In the past week, many of you have likely heard about the murder of Adrian Peterson’s two year old son. Though the brutal murder of this innocent toddler should have made headlines regardless of who his father was, the fact that his father plays for the Minnesota Vikings became a center piece for the story. At first, I wondered why the media was referring to this child as Peterson’s “secret child”. After reading more, I learned the sad reality that Peterson didn’t even know this was his child until a couple of months before the child’s death.
Even though it appeared that Peterson had been robbed of the chance to know this little boy, some internet trolls had no problem throwing him under the bus for continuing to play football despite the news. Before I move on to the real issue here – the child – let me just say some words in support for Adrian Peterson. Peterson is one of the victims here. He lost a child he never even had the chance to know (and not through fault of his own). If he felt the need to dance on top of Mount Everest or run naked on the beach as a coping mechanism, I would have no judgement. People grieve in all sorts of ways. Many people choose to throw themselves into their careers in order to keep living. This man also has two other children for whom he is financially supporting. Keep living Adrian – it’s what your son would have wanted and it’s what your other children need.
Under The Media Frenzy:
While many of the articles I have read focus on Adrian Peterson being a football player, as if the death of his child is somehow more shocking than the thousands of other children who die after being abused, this story can serve as an example of many disturbing trends in our society. Just weeks after my own son’s murder (at the hands of his own father), I continued to say that I hoped my son would be the last child who had to suffer in this way. Though that was my hope, I knew that would never be the reality given the current state of affairs in America.
Adrian Peterson’s son, whom family members called “Ty”, was a happy and vibrant two-year old boy. His mother had left him in the care of a man named Joseph Robert Patterson. Without details about how much the mother knew about this man (or more importantly how much information the system allowed to be public information), I will refrain from judging her for the moment. I will, however, come down harshly on a system that allowed this abuser to roam a free man long enough to kill a child. It is now known that Patterson was indicted in June 2012 on several counts of simple assault involving an ex-girlfriend and her 3-year-old son. He was also later charged for violating a no-contact order. While he was sentenced to one year in jail for both of these cases, his time was suspended upon the condition that he attend domestic violence counseling.
Abusers and Deadly Plea Bargains:
In December 2010, my son’s father was arrested for violently assaulting his then 11 year old son. To avoid a conviction and criminal record, Luc agreed to family counseling and the child was put back in the home. Child Protective Services issued a report that the abuse was founded, however, records disappeared and Luc was allowed to go on as if this assault had never occurred. Luc, just like Patterson, is an abusive man who prays upon women and children. A few months of family therapy didn’t turn Luc into a loving non-abusive father, and “domestic violence counseling” clearly did nothing for Peterson either. If Luc had served the mandatory year in jail for abusing his older son, Prince would likely still be here. If Patterson had served the two years in jail that he was sentenced, I wouldn’t be writing about this story because little Ty would be here too.
My son, Prince McLeod Rams, and little Ty were both brutally murdered by men who shouldn’t have been free to walk amongst us. While Prince and Ty had different circumstances leading to how these men obtained access (Prince was forced into the custody of a killer by the courts and Ty was left with his mother’s abusive boyfriend), the two cases have frighteningly similar roots. Both killers found dangerous loopholes in a broken system. Both killers had previous run ins with the law where they were able to convince psychological professionals and court officials that they could be rehabilitated and should be given another chance to behave. As long as society remains in denial about personality disorders, more children will be at risk for deadly child abuse. It is not possible to rehabilitate a sociopath. My son, Ty, and all the other children who have been victims of our broken system (and those who will be victims in the future) deserve better from us – they deserve justice.
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analyzed data that showed that 80 percent of the 1,570 U.S. children who died from abuse were 4 years old or younger. In 87 percent of these cases, the perpetrators were biological parents of the victims. The Every Child Matters education fund reports that 15,510 children are known to have died between 2001 and 2010 from child abuse related incidents. This is about 2.5 times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though these statistics are shocking in and of themselves, the U.S. Government Accountability Office states that these numbers are underreported because there is no national standard for reporting.
When my son arrived at the hospital, nurses and doctors immediately called police and Child Protective Services as his injuries were consistent with child abuse. Though every person who encountered my son in those initial hours after he arrived at the hospital was likely horrified at the scene, my son’s death went unreported for nearly a month after the incident. Police didn’t release a press release of any sort and my son’s killer wasn’t arrested for over three months after the incident occurred. I often wonder how many other cases where children have been murdered go completely unreported. For months after my son’s murder, I was told that the case was “under investigation” and that authorities were not releasing the cause of my healthy little boy’s sudden death.
Ty’s story was reported because his father is a football player. Perhaps my son’s story was reported because I am loud, and continue to scream at the top of my lungs. Perhaps my son’s story was told because a brave reporter from The Washington Post Editorial section took a chance and reported about a case that officials seemed dead set on burying. The sad reality, however, is all the cases that go un reported – all the children who are born into this dangerous world with no weapons to protect themselves – no Civil Rights – no voice – and no future.