Right now, Katie Vyktoriah’s story about her two-year-old son and the drunken redneck who slapped the boy in the head is all the rage, thanks in part to Huffington Post, which not only ran Vyktoriah’s essay but interviewed her for Huff TV. It’s certainly possible that a camo shirt-wearing asshole ripped a pink headband from Vyktoriah’s two-year-old, called him a “fucking faggot,” and then said that he would be “shot” one day for being a gay. There are no shortage of homophobic douche bags in the world, after all, and as the father of two children I’ve run into may share of handsy strangers, some of whom certainly made me feel uncomfortable. But something about the mother’s tale rubs me the wrong way.
Here’s what she had to say about the day she took her son to Walmart:
Soon enough, we were done with our shop and were making our way toward the front. As we passed through the produce section, two teenage girls began giggling and one of them asked, “Is that a boy or a girl?” I smiled and said, “He’s a boy.” I looked on at him adoringly as they continued to giggle.
Out of nowhere a big booming voice rang out. “THAT’S a BOY?!” The man was overly large with a bushy beard and a camouflage shirt with the arms cut off. He had tattered shorts and lace-up work boots with no laces. I could smell the fug of cigarette smoke surrounding him, and there was a definite pong of beer on him.
“Yes,” I said simply, still smiling.
With no notice, the man stepped forward, grabbed the headband off of Dexter’s head and threw it to the bottom of our shopping cart. He then cuffed Dexter around the side of his head (not hard, but that is not the point) and said with a big laugh, “You’ll thank me later, little man!”
At the same time as I stepped forward, Dexter grabbed his head where the man had smacked him and threw his other hand forward, stomping his foot and shouting, “NO!” I got between my son and this man and said very firmly, “If you touch my son again, I will cut your damn hands off.”
The guy snarled at me, looked at Dexter with disgust and said, “Your son is a f*cking fa***t.” He then started sauntering out, but not before he threw over his shoulder, “He’ll get shot for it one day.”
I stood there, shaking, fists clenched, waiting for the man to disappear out the door, and then I fell apart. I was shaking so hard, holding back tears and comforting Dexter.
Not a single person said or did anything. There were several people who had witnessed the encounter, but not one of them came over to offer support or console me or my son.
I was there with a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old baby, and my kid had been verbally and physically assaulted by a man. And no one did a thing.
I made my way to the front, still in shock, and I paid for my items and left. I did not report it to the management nor to the authorities, though I am considering doing both. But as I live in a tourist area, I doubt there is anything I can do to find the man — he could be anyone from anywhere.
While Vyktoriah bemoans the fact that no one did a thing — and by not doing anything, revealed themselves to be bigots and gay-bashing apologists — she herself did nothing. She didn’t complain to the cashier. She didn’t notify the manager. She didn’t call the police. She simply checked out, went home, and stewed about it for 24 hours before penning a blog post announcing to the world that her two-year-old son had been assaulted by a booze-soaked barbarian in Walmart. (She also had her smart phone with her at the time of the assault, so she could have even taken a photo of the man who slapped her son.)
Even worse, she says that she still doesn’t know if she’s even going to do anything about the crime committed against her son. After all, she lives in a tourist town and, you know, that man just might not live anywhere around there, so what’s the point.
Actually, Vyktoriah could file a report with the police, they could ask Walmart for surveillance footage of both the incident and the parking lot where the man presumably parked his car, and ultimately, the man could be arrested for, you know, assaulting a two-year-old.
If we don’t get confirmation that a police report has been filed, see footage of this incident, or read a statement from Walmart sometime soon, then there’s a chance this story is not what it appears to be. (See Update on incident report below.)
Update: On Aug. 3 Vyktoriah posted on her Facebook page that she had just spoken to law enforcement officers about the incident at Walmart and the harassment that she and her family have faced since the initial post was made. She has also shut down her site.
Here’s what was written:
The Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy has just left our home, and all information about the original Wal Mart incident and the ongoing harassment has been documented and is being dealt with. I have been advised NOT to say any more about the situation, as the investigation is ongoing, so thank you all for your support, but I am going to be offline for the next while until all of this is resolved.
I have spoken to a public information officer with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, and she said that she has not been contacted by any media outlets regarding the incident and was unaware of the viral story. She is currently trying to find out who may be handling the case. (For the answer to this, see below.)
Update: Vyktoriah posted an update to her site July 31, a day after posting the initial post. She explained at that point why she didn’t plan to speak to the authorities and how her feelings on the incident had changed. Here’s what was written:
I also wanted to say thank you to everyone (and there were a LOT of you) who advised me to contact WalMart for the CCTV footage and the police to press charges.
I most likely won’t be doing that. I would like to explain why.
When it happened, I wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. I was in a bit of shock, to be honest, and the fact that no one else came up to offer any support made me wonder if I’d overreacted.
The entire thing happened in less than a minute. It was over as quickly as it started, and no one was harmed. My shock at what the man said was worse than my upset about him touching my kid.
The truth is that (and I tried to make this clear in the blog post) he did not hurt my son. He cuffed him like you would pat a dog on the head. It was not violent. It was not acceptable, but it was not violent.
My two days of thinking on the whole thing has made me believe that the guy saw a woman with two little boys on her own, one of the boys wearing a girly headband, and he thought he was doing me a favor by teaching my boy to be more manly.
He may have thought I was a single mom in need of a strong male role model. And when he touched my son, I immediately stepped in to threaten him. His reaction was over the top and completely terrible, but we have all said things in the heat of the moment that we are not proud of. The fact he seemed to have been drinking may have exacerbated his reaction.
Update: The Polk County Sheriff’s Office public information officer says that she has only been contacted by one other media outlet, a Tampa TV station, in addition to the City Paper.
Update: The Huffington Post initially contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office records department. Sometime after this story was posted, the Huffington Post contacted the public information officer, according to a staffer for the news organization.
Update: The Orlando Sentinel has an update on Katie Vyktoriah (a.k.a. Kathleen Carpenter):
According to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office report, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office became aware of Carpenter’s blog post detailing the alleged incident at a Four Corners-area Walmart.
Since Polk County was eventually mentioned specifically in the blog as being the responding agency, a Sheriff’s Office lieutenant requested a deputy go meet with Carpenter.
When the Polk deputy met with Carpenter — it’s not clear when [then] happened — she began making suicidal statements, the Lake County report said.
At that time, she was taken into custody by the Polk deputy under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows law-enforcement to hospitalize people for mental-health evaluation.
When the Lake County Sheriff’s Office report was taken Monday night, a deputy stated, “Based on the continuing media response through Facebook and generated response to the incident by online subscribers, possible video of the incident may be obtained and viewed to in fact verify that the incident actually did occur or if it was all made up.”
The deputy also noted that Polk County deputies have launched another case for harassing communication based on more than 11,000 emails Carpenter received so far in response to her blog post.
Update: I’ve just received several reports from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office about the “pink headband” incident.
According to these reports, on Sat. Aug. 3 a Polk County deputy went to the home of Kathleen Carpenter, where a “deputy spoke to a male subject who advised his wife and son were ‘harassed at Wal-Mart last week.'” The man in question also told the deputy that his family was now receiving threats after his wife wrote about the incident on her blog. The deputy then told the man that he needed to contact the Lake County Sheriff’s Office since the incident took place in their jurisdiction. No report was completed.
On Mon. Aug. 5, a Polk County deputy and a Lake County deputy went to Carpenter’s home. Carpenter told officers “her two-year-old son Dexter was battered” at a Walmart in Lake County. After Carpenter reportedly began making “suicidal statements,” the officer took her to the Lakeland Regional Medical Center for observation. The officer believed that Carpenter was a “potential threat to herself and others” and under the Florida Mental Health Act turned her over to medical professionals. An officer also took Carpenter’s camera and media card. The Lake County Sheriff’s Department is now leading the investigation into the alleged Walmart battery.
Prior to receiving this report, I had contacted Walmart to speak with them about the pink headband incident. They returned my call, but I missed it and my subsequent call back has yet to be returned.
UPDATE (08.08.13): According to an LGBT news site, Kathleen Carpenter is reportedly back with her family.
Huffington Post has also removed the “pink headband” story. An editor’s note on HuffPo says:
HuffPost provides a platform for bloggers to share their thoughts and experiences. In a post published last week, an author described witnessing an incident that is now being investigated by local law enforcement. At the blogger’s request, we have removed the post. We have also confirmed with investigators that they are in contact with the author.