Affluenza: Ethan Couch, I Find You Guilty!

Aflluenza, It sounds like what they would have called some terrible plague that hit medieval France and killed half the country, right?

Well, almost equally as bad, the medical definition, as per WebMD (the end all and be all in medical diagnoses), is as follows:

A ‘condition’ affecting individuals in highly developed societies, characterized by an addiction to controlled noise—TV, conversation, entertainment—lack of financial control, disintegration of the family and social networks, disconnect with the natural habitat, and living in an artificial environment.

If you remember Sebastian Valmont from Cruel Intentions then you have a pretty good picture.

Cruel Intentions

Cruel Intentions

On June 15, 2013, in Texas, 16-year-old Ethan Couch, driving with a blood alcohol of about three times the legal limit, struck and killed four pedestrians and injured two of the passengers in his own car, leaving one paralyzed and brain damaged.

A psychologist testified that Couch suffered from affluenza:  “To the defense, the youth is himself a victim — of “affluenza,” according to one psychologist — the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.”  In other words, because no one spent the time to teach him the difference between right and wrong, combined with the fact that he truly believed money could buy anything, he was not guilty of four counts of vehicular manslaughter.

Yes, you read that correctly. He was found not guilty.  He took the lives of four innocent adults: two people pulled over to the side of the road with a broken down vehicle, a pastor who made the mistake of being a Good Samaritan by stopping to help, and the friend they called to come pick them up, all dead. Ethan received ten years probation and a one-to-two year stay in a rehabilitation facility in California.

I am livid. I am NEVER speechless, but I’m speechless.  It was said that jail could not rehabilitate this boy; the only hope for someone so sick was intensive psychotherapy.  I just don’t understand how such an atrocity could have occurred.  The sentence ratifies the belief that affluenza absolved Ethan of fault. But he WAS at fault – his actions were the direct cause of the deaths of four people and the devastating injuries of two others.  In one to two years, they will still be dead, but he will get to go home and start over.

Articles claim that his parents fought a lot when he was a child, that they never took the time to parent, and that they went through a difficult divorce.  He grew up without limits, having never heard the term “no”.  I try my hardest not to judge. You want to let your five-year-old walk around with a pacifier in his mouth? Go for it. But in this case…as a parent I can and WILL judge.  If you don’t have five minutes to teach your child that certain seriously dangerous actions are prohibited and that you have to take responsibility for your actions (good or bad) then frankly you shouldn’t be a parent.  It takes a split second to say “no”; were they too busy to find the time or did they just not care to do so?

Sometimes my kids eat those Aunt Annie’s gummy bunnies for breakfast, but I attempt to teach them that hitting is wrong.  You don’t have to be the best parent, just a parent.

Sometimes my kids watch three hours of television in a row, but when they throw toys at each other, I don’t cheer them on.

Sometimes it’s cold and I let them go outside in less than ideal winter gear, but when they pull another kid’s hair, I don’t just ignore it.

The poor victim of Afflenza, Ethan Couch

The poor victim of Afflenza, Ethan Couch

I have a very, very hard time imagining that Ethan doesn’t understand that what he did was wrong. I don’t care if no one ever spelled it out for him, but at some point in his life he has seen an episode of Law & Order Special Something Unit and learned that drinking and driving is dangerous, illegal, prosecutable, and that people go to jail for it.  I don’t care if he thinks mommy and daddy’s money can buy him his freedom…but guess what, Judge? You just taught him that it could.

His defense attorney argued that if he received jail time he could be released as early as two years from now.  Jail would not fix this severe case of affluenza like a therapeutic spa, oops, I mean rehabilitation center would.  They recommended that his parents do not have contact with him during his stay.  I’m not quite sure why this is.  As parents they should be ashamed of themselves; they have failed miserably at their job.  They didn’t have had to produce the next president, but by ignoring this one person, their own son, they damaged the lives of so many more.  Is the rehabilitation center going to give him a crash course in life skills, a quick two years of parenting to make up for the 16 he lacked before?  Shouldn’t they involve his parents, maybe even help to teach them how to parent better?

Someone needs to be held accountable for this, if not him, then his parents.  Mom and Dad Couch, it’s time to step it up and take responsibility for the mess you created.  We cannot let the Ethan Couch’s of this world think that Affluenza is just the newest “get out of jail free” card.

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