Teen forcibly shaved, pierced for being "out of control"

Mother goes free in girl-gone-wild case.

Published October 31, 2007 5:51PM (EDT)

Via Feministe, a real Halloween horror show: A 13-year-old girl -- at the behest of her mother, as punishment for alleged promiscuity -- had her head forcibly shaved to make her unattractive to men and her labia forcibly pierced to make intercourse uncomfortable. This happened in Naples. The one in Florida.

Child Protective Services was called when the piercing, performed by Tammy "Tattoo Tammy" Meredith, became infected. A case against the mother, 39, went to trial last week. And in a story that's now making the blog rounds, a jury of five men and one woman, having deliberated over two counts of first-degree aggravated child abuse, took three hours to acquit.

Though you won't read it in this Associated Press story -- or other news briefs that package this, at very least by omission, as a straight-to-Jerry Springer tale of a "teen slut out of control!" -- it turns out, apparently, that the girl, now 16, had been molested since she was 11 by a family friend who is now 30, and who is now the mother's boyfriend. (You will read that in the awkwardly titled "Girl Pierced in Private Area Testifies in First Day of Mother's Trial" on NaplesNews.com, which is thorough enough to mention that jurors "passed around a photo of the girl's labia.") One can imagine that some of the girl's alleged "promiscuity" could have been a response to or symptom of this sexual abuse.

Though there was some dispute about when the mother found out what, prosecutors contended that she intended the piercing as retaliation for the girl's sexual "relationship" with her boyfriend. (Perhaps she was also inspired by something on the History Channel about the shaving of women's heads as a form of sexual punishment?)

Yes, there is a warrant out for the boyfriend's arrest. And yes, Tattoo Tammy is currently spending the year in jail for child abuse.

Fine. Great. Um. What about the mother?

One commenter at Lawyers, Guns and Money maintains that while the woman was clearly guilty of child abuse, the evidence presented may not, strictly speaking, have supported convicting her of charges of aggravated abuse as defined by state law, an even more serious felony carrying 30 years' jail time. (The judge had rejected two bargains in which the mother agreed to plead guilty to nonaggravated child abuse.)

Let's hope that that commenter is correct. (And let's hope that we can find compassion, where appropriate, for end-of-their-rope parents, even for violent, in-denial actings out in response to betrayal.) But let's also hope that had I been in the courtroom, I would understand why what happened in this heartbreaking case does not fall under Section 827.03(2)(b): "Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child; or (c) Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child." (Yes, piercings heal and hair grows back, but come on.) Let's hope, in other words, that -- even if we don't like the result -- the jury correctly applied the law.

The law of the state, that is, not the law of Springer. "Maybe it was not the best decision in the world," foreman Colin Kelly told the AP after the verdict. "But the intent was to try to stop a girl who was completely out of control," he said (emphasis added). "Are you going to put every parent in jail for making a bad decision?"

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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