Snyder vs. Phelps: Can a Single Event Cause Extreme Emotional Damage?

Someone politely (yet firmly) pointed out to me that although I can spend all day and night mentally masturbating to the fact my book has been published, I still have a website to maintain. So I wrote a piece on emotional abuse and how it could impact the legal system. Here is an excerpt, and hit the link at the end if you’d like to read the entire piece over at ConstitutionalDaily.com:

If you are familiar with the case of Snyder v. Phelps, you know that picketers who held up signs such as “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” at a funeral for fallen soldiers were ultimately protected from punishment under the First Amendment. As a lawyer informed me, the details of the case are, from a legal standpoint, a bit dicey, given that the protesters were a certain distance away from the grieving families and that many of the soldiers’ family members didn’t even see the protesters’ signs until the evening news.

Given events such as these, an important question emerges: can a single event such as this cause severe emotional harm? If you’re a lawyer or law student, you are probably thinking of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED).

The short and somewhat lame answer to this question is “yes, but only for some.” If you’ve ever dealt with a psychologist or psychiatrist in a legal setting, you know they give incredibly vague, hedged responses. It’s annoying, I know. But there is a reason for it. Quite simply, human thought and behavior is, bar none, the most difficult phenomena to measure with any real accuracy, and there are almost always exceptions.

Read the rest here.

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3 Responses to “Snyder vs. Phelps: Can a Single Event Cause Extreme Emotional Damage?”

  1. Joanna says:

    Does Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome fit in here anywhere? Does an extremely traumatic event (which of course differs from person to person) cause the brain to release chemicals that can cause long term damage?

    This post just raised more questions for my enquiring mind 🙂 keep them coming Dr Rob!

  2. Lori says:

    I think of PTSD like this. It sets you (or your brain if you prefer) up to be reactive to certain events, and to react to them automatically. And each time that happens, it reinforces the response so that it happens more. But its not damage like having your leg cut off where it cannot ever be fixed. Have you read Dr. Peter Levines book on trauma? He has an interesting way of thinking about it.

  3. elisa says:

    what about being baker acted and arrested by a lie, how to forgive and move on??? would you go back to a spouse who lied and is a narsasistic compulsive drunk and lyer?? 24 years and 2 kids and i am alone but free. Should i be glad or sad???