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Thursday, November 07, 2013
Confronting Locker Room Bullying with Physical Violence

An interesting development in Incognito-gate yesterday, with stories that Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland told Jonathan Martin's agent that Martin should punch his tormentor in the face.

One downside of punching someone in the head, of course, is that one has committed a tort: battery.  Can a person use force to defend themselves from bullying?  In my article Defense Against Outrage, I explore this very question.  I ask whether, if the bully's conduct rises to the level of extreme or outrageous conduct, a person can use physical force in "self-defense" against the emotional damage bullying can do.

Some have argued that Richie Incognito's bullying, pervasive and offensive, would rise to the level of IIED.  Would that have created a privilege to use physical violence in self-defense?


Interesting question, Geoff. I think the answer should be yes. The element of "reasonable force" for purposes of self-defense tends to be governed by a proportionality principle, i.e., the victim's response should be proportionate to the initial aggressor's use of force or threat of force. Thus, while punching the initial aggressor in the face would typically be viewed as a reasonable response to a punch or threat of a punch from the aggressor, perhaps in response to verbal abuse a shove into the lockers is reasonable but a punch in the face is not. I think the other element of self-defense -- reasonable grounds to believe the victim is being threatened with an imminent bodily attack -- can be dealt with by requiring the victim to show reasonable grounds to believe he/she is being subjected to imminent emotional attack/abuse.


Blogger Rick Karcher -- 11/09/2013 7:23 AM  

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